Calling all pastors of courage

By Jerry Falwell

It is becoming increasingly evident that conservative pastors in America are being targeted for speaking out on political issues that confront our nation. And while it has become fashionable for so-called civil-libertarian groups to run screaming to the IRS if a conservative pastor speaks his mind, the fact is that pastors in this nation have a right and a mandate to confront the consequential problems of the day.

As I recently reported, Americans United for Separation and Church and State – an organization that seeks the removal of every vestige of religious substance from the American public square – has called for the IRS to investigate a recent column I wrote in which I suggested that conservative Christians almost exclusively favor President Bush in this November’s presidential election.

Now, that same organization has filed a complaint against the Rev. Ronnie Floyd, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark., after he preached a sermon allegedly promoting the re-election of President Bush.

In a letter to the IRS, Americans United President Barry Lynn – who dubiously calls himself “reverend” – said that when Pastor Floyd lauded President Bush’s stand on issues such as abortion and homosexual rights, he was effectively urging his congregants “to be sure to vote for Bush.”

Furthermore, In Kansas, the leftist Mainstream Coalition will send observers to state churches to monitor the contents of pastors’ sermons.

Should pastors be frightened by these obvious scare tactics?

Of course not!

Pastoral summit

In fact, because the political heat is being turned up to intimidate conservative pastors in our nation, I am announcing today that Liberty University will be hosting a special summit for pastors and church leaders this Sept. 26-29.

This forum, which will be a part of our annual Super Conference in Lynchburg, Va., is titled “Politics and the Pulpit,” and will be hosted by Mat Staver, president and general counsel of the Orlando, Fla.-based Liberty Counsel, and my son Jerry Falwell Jr., vice-chancellor and general counsel of Liberty University. (Last year’s Super Conference was attended by more than 13,000 pastors and church leaders.)

My son Jonathan, executive pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, and I serve as hosts of this annual event. New York Times best-selling author Rick Warren (“The Purpose-Driven Life”) is returning this year as our featured speaker. (In addition, Dr. Ed Young Sr., Dr. Ed Young Jr., Dr. and Mrs. Jim Cymbala and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Singers will be featured.)

In “Politics and the Pulpit,” we will be highlighting the mass participation of churches in the July 11 “Protect Marriage Sunday,” in which thousands of pastors in our nation urged their congregants to call their senators in order to ask them to support the Federal Marriage Amendment. We literally overwhelmed the Capitol switchboard with calls and, while the amendment was voted down, we sent a message to our senators – the Church of Jesus Christ is alive and well.

In the progressively more hostile environment we are witnessing against Christians, I believe it is high time that conservative pastors become enlightened as to their rights in the pulpit. Here is a crucial fact: Pastors may endorse political legislation as long as such lobbying activities do not constitute a substantial part of their overall activities. I doubt that most pastors are aware of this fact.

Mr. Staver recently stated: “It is time for pastors and other church leaders to shed their moral laryngitis.” He noted that no church has ever lost its tax-exempt status for engaging in lobbying activities.

Mr. Staver, who served as a pastor before starting Liberty Counsel, added, “Churches and other communities of faith should and must vocally and actively support the preservation of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and must confront the culture by standing on our biblical foundations.”

He has been at the forefront of many important legal issues and is rapidly becoming a key point man in the battle to retain our religious freedoms.

I am urging pastors and church leaders to prayerfully consider attending this essential conference on the rights of pastors and churches.

To learn more about this year’s Super Conference, please visit our website: