Pastors have often felt hamstrung over the last fifty years in the United States due to the the Johnson Amendment (named after the Lyndon Johnson Administration, but is known in the Internal Revenue Code as “The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3), which says the following:
“Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.”
One must realize that this is speaking about candidating for or against a political candidate, not issue. Even so, some are so afraid of losing tax exempt status that they feel the road to hoe is to stay away from political issues altogether.
I thought of this when I came across a quote from an 1879 sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892), who was not encumbered by this law, since he lived in Great Britain.
I desire to speak of these things as before God in all sincerity and simplicity. I know it is impossible to touch upon such a subject without being suspected of political bias, but I can truly declare that from all such partiality I desire to be freed so that I may not speak as a partisan, but as the servant of the living God. Calmly and solemnly would I speak words of soberness and truth and justice; it is a burden to my heart to speak a hard word of my own beloved country, and if I seem to do so it is not in wantonness, but because of a pressure upon my conscience which will not let me be silent.
Pastors often get accused of being political when addressing a social issue in the midst of preaching from the Scriptures. Yet, we must realize that the Scriptures deal with every day issues (sins, even) that come about when addressing being rescued from brokenness and rescued to Jesus. Our aim is to speak not as political partisans, but as servants of the living God. Jesus spoke about the social ills of the culture, but also preached about helping physically and spiritually to rescue (see Matthew 25:31-46).
Let’s not be silent!
Spurgeon, MTP 25:1483