Congressman Walter Jones from North Carolina’s 3rd District has introduced H.R. 235, the “Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act.” This bill would amend the IRS Code of 1986 to restore the ability of churches and other houses of worship to freely participate in political campaigns.
According to Congressman Jones:
“In 1954, then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson offered an amendment to a revenue bill that would permanently extend the stranglehold of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) into our nation’s churches, synagogues and mosques. Since that time, the IRS has turned the 501(c)(3) code-section on its head in an attempt to punish pastors, priests and rabbis for nothing more than communicating the principles of faith during an election period. If passed, the Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act would restore the rights of all religious organizations to determine for themselves what they can and cannot teach from their pulpits, or communicate to their congregation and the public without fear that their tax status may be in jeopardy. It is time to restore freedom to our Nation’s pulpits.”
To contact your Representative or Senator: From a constitutional perspective, it is unconscionable that the current policy penalizing the free speech of religious institutions has remained intact and unchallenged for this long. The government has long recognized that institutions of faith and houses of worship have provided vital services to our communities and our nation. In fact, our public policy has been to honor the valuable contributions of these organizations with an exemption from taxes both for the organizations themselves and for the individuals and groups who support them. Regrettably, because of a simple appropriations rider in 1954, our public policy changed to recognizing the valuable contributions of houses of worship only if they gave up their constitutional right to free speech. (What an amazing exchange: we will honor your charitable contributions but only if you will give up your constitutional rights!) This obviously represents bad public policy and unjustly muzzles thousands of churches across America by preventing them from exercising their fundamental right to free speech. Free speech is most valuable when it is exercised during the elections of our government leaders.
- If you do not know your U. S. Congressman, go to http://www.house.gov/writerep/ and type in yo ur zip code to learn the name of yourRepresentative.
- Call the U.S. Capitol at (202) 224-3121. When the Capitol switchboard operator answers, ask for your Senator or Representative by name. When that office answers, ask to speak to your Congressman or Senator. If he is available, he will speak with you; if he is unavailable, simply tell his staff your thoughts on H.R. 235 and how you would like him to vote.
- If you wish to write and communicate the same message, the address is:
Name of your Representative
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC, 20515
Name of your Senator
Washington, DC, 20510
(To access information (bill text, sponsors, status, etc.) and track the progress of the “Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act,” go to http://thomas.loc.gov and type in “HR 235” To see how your Congressman voted on a similar bill on October 2, 2002, click here. WallBuilders offers The Role of Pastors and Christians in Civil Government, which documents the historic role people of faith played in our government; it is available in DVD, Audio CD,and Booklet formats.)