Conservative evangelical leaders hope that 1,500 pastors will take part in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” on October 7 and tell their congregants that they must vote against President Obama and other “unbiblical” candidates. Today, publisher Steven Strang, anti-gay activist Rev. Jim Garlow, and too-radical-for-John-McCain pastor John Hagee participated in a conference call designed to either shame or inspire more pastors to take part.
One context for the Pulpit Freedom Sunday project, which has been growing over the past decade, is the fervent belief among religious right leaders that America would not be such a cesspool of abortion, homosexuality, and secularism if only more pastors had the courage to speak freely from the pulpit. Too many pastors are being intimidated, they believe, by restrictions against political endorsements by tax-exempt nonprofits (501c3 groups in IRS lingo) which includes churches. Garlow said the day in 1954 when the “Johnson amendment” language was put into the tax code was the day that “changed America” and set the stage for bad Supreme Court decisions and everything else that has gone wrong since the 1960s.
Pulpit Freedom Sunday participants agree to preach political sermons, send them to the IRS, and dare the agency to sue them. The Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly known as the Alliance Defense Fund) has offered legal help to churches that might get into trouble, even though organizers say no church has ever lost its tax-exempt status over political preaching.
Another context for the call is the increasingly frantic fear among religious right leaders that Barack Obama might actually be re-elected, which they believe would spell the end of freedom and America itself. Garlow told pastors that America has only 30-some days to turn around or the nation and the liberties and privileges Americans have enjoyed “are going to evaporate very rapidly.”
Garlow and other religious right leaders made that same point at this past Saturday’s “America for Jesus” rally in Philadelphia, which kicked off a number of prayer-and-fasting campaigns designed to influence the outcome of the November elections.
On today’s call, John Hagee insisted that St. Paul had instructed Christians to stand on the evil day, and that “the evil day is here.” He cited Bonhoffer looking the evil of Naziism in the face in Hitler’s Germany. Americans, he said are being “trampled” by the “secular left” because churches and pastors have “stopped defending the truth fearlessly.” Hagee said “We as a people need to become bold and aggressive.”
“This is my mantra to my congregation and to America,” said Hagee. “Vote the Bible.” More specifically, he said, it was impermissible to vote for the Democratic Party because it supports “homosexual marriage.”
Charisma publisher Steven Strang also denounced pastors’ timidity and warned, “The way of life we have is over if Barack Obama is elected again.” He urged pastors to watch the anti-Obama propaganda film 2016, and compared today’s complacent American Christians with Jews and Christians who didn’t oppose Hitler’s rise because they didn’t believe Hitler was as bad as he said he was.
Strang urged pastors to convince their congregants to vote for Mitt Romney even if they are uncomfortable, as Strang said he is, with voting for a Mormon president. “We have no option,” he insisted. Besides, he said, “Mormons are good god-fearing people in their own way. They have conservative values, they have strong families.”
Hagee ended the pastor recruitment call with a prayer, concluding, “May the lord himself be glorified this Sunday and every Sunday, as the men of God step into the pulpit with the word of God in their hand, that the word of truth may be known in this nation, that we have no God but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and Jesus is lord indeed.”
Jesus as Lord of America was also a theme at America for Jesus, as was the need for more “fire” from churches. The line-up included Garlow, Pat Robertson, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, pseudo-historian David Barton, self-proclaimed apostle Cindy Jacobs, and many more. Staver asked God to “bring fire to the pulpits,” saying, “we are tired of playing church.” Speakers led group repentance for the Obama administration’s not supporting Israel 100 percent and for the nation’s collective guilt regarding the seven deadly sins. Shofars joined with shouts of Hallelujah to blast demons away from the Philadelphia area. And Garlow, of course, promoted Pulpit Freedom Sunday as a key to the nation’s “spiritual turnaround.”