Pastor Jim Garlow will stand before congregants at his 2,000-seat Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, California, on Sunday, October 7, just weeks before the U.S. presidential and congressional elections, and urge his flock to vote for or against particular candidates. He knows such pulpit pleading could endanger his church's tax-exempt status by violating IRS rules for a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. A charity can take a position on policy issues but cannot act "on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office." To cross that line puts the $7 million mega-church's tax break at risk.
Even so, Garlow not only intends to break the rules, he also plans to spend the next four months recruiting other pastors to do the same as part of Pulpit Freedom Sunday. On that day each year since 2008, ministers intentionally try to provoke the IRS. Some even send DVD recordings of their sermons to the agency. Last year, 539 pastors participated. This year organizers expect far more. Participants want to force the matter to court as a freedom of speech and religion issue.
"I believe we're on the early stages of the next great awakening," Garlow told his congregation last year. "We're going to see it just sweep across this nation."
Are we in the early stages of an awakening or an Inquisition? We have already seen what happens when politicians become mouthpieces for their industrial puppetmasters. What happens when politicians become puppets for religious institutions? Any student of history knows what happens any time religious organizations gain political and military control. Do the words Inquisition, witch burning and Taliban have any meaning for you?
I love the way demagogues cloak their power schemes in nice sounding terms. Pulpit Freedom-sounds like a campaign to advocate religious liberty, doesn't it? Actually, I believe it is a campaign to destroy the protections guaranteed by the First Amendment. The people who put this country together were well aware of the horrors that result when religions gain political power. One of the first things Hitler did when he was putting the Nazi Party together was to affiliate it with the Catholic Church. We all know how that worked out.
Maybe we should organize counter demonstrations across the country to advocate First Amendment Freedom Sunday. Do we really want our elected officials in the pockets of televangelists? I don't know about you but that idea scares the heck out of me.