Uh oh! On September 28th, pastors at the Pulpit Freedom Summit will be preaching on the specific moral virtues of various political candidates in direct defiance of established American law. The blogosphere is alight with demands from the left that participants’ churches have their tax-exempt status removed immediately, and that the IRS descend upon them for violation of the Johnson Amendment. This law, crafted by future-president Lyndon Baines Johnson and passed in 1954, altered the IRS tax code to deny tax-exempt status to explicitly political religious groups.
Erik Stanley of the Alliance Defense Fund is bent on encouraging civil disobedience against this law in the hopes of baiting the IRS into litigation. He maintains that they’re “not trying to get politics in the pulpit. [They’re] trying to get (government) out of the pulpit.” This is ostensibly a reasonable goal, as any regulation of political speech is bound to be written in such a way which helps political insiders maintain their power at the expense of newcomers.
It isn’t that the faithful in America have a well-established tendency of voting for culturally-conservative candidates that one should fear. It is that yet another branch of civil society will be publicly encouraging voters to legitimize the failing American political system.
By encouraging churchgoers to participate in the two-party duopoly, citizens will have one more institution misleading them into believing that their interests are served by advancing the policies of either the Republican or Democratic parties. Generally, this is not the case, as both parties fail to challenge the major centers of power in American society and present Americans with a distorted cluster of false choices:
“Should I vote for the candidate who thinks free markets mean keeping current market intervention for the benefit of the rich combined with the elimination of social welfare nets, or the candidate whose policies make it that much harder for my small businesses to absorb costs from additional regulatory and tax burdens?”
More than merely presenting participants with inadequate selections, this system reinforces a truly bewitched political culture which teaches that voting legitimizes the unjust behavior of a voting majority.
When people are taught that saving the nuclear family is a political imperative, they will not pause to consider how they are hurting nonaggressive individuals outside of their preferred domestic model through their electoral choices. If they believe that such systems of societal decision-making are acceptable, they will not take moral exception when presented with the opportunity of caging the consumers of socially-disfavored narcotics.
In this way, pulpit-politicos can strengthen the idea amongst their flocks that politicians can solve the problems of average people, and that there is a coercive state solution to this messy and complex world we inhabit. They further entrench voting without secession as the dominant model of social organization, and neglect to address what should happen when a voting majority comes to decisions which unfairly hurt or disrupt those who are in disagreement with the policy. Worse possibly, they may even find such a scenario justifiable.
If ministers gain the formal right to engage the American electoral system, it will hopefully only further degrade our political culture from within the composting toilet in which it resides. Perhaps this increase in American freedom of expression will help defray the madness more quickly and thus challenge people to start asking real questions about authority and how a healthy society should look. Otherwise, these efforts will be yet another diversion away from the just principles of statelessness and Americans will instead remain with the forever-unappetizing menu of mainstream political “choice.”