Survey: Pulpit endorsements 'inappropriate' and unpopular

Tuesday, September 13, 2016
 | 
Bill Bumpas (OneNewsNow.com)

church pewsIt's apparent that a substantial majority of Americans think it is inappropriate for pastors to endorse a candidate during a church service.

LifeWay Research surveyed 1,000 Americans last September and found that almost eight in ten (79%) believe pastors shouldn't endorse candidates from the pulpit – and three-quarters say churches should steer clear of endorsements. With the next presidential election just a few weeks away, OneNewsNow sought comment about those findings.

"Some of these Americans who are answering are people who are in church regularly and others, of course, are not," explains Scott McConnell, executive director of Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

"But we see that [with] both groups – with these kinds of majorities – it's pretty clear they don't want the church to be getting caught up in politics and backing [someone], whether it be local candidates or presidential candidates."

He adds: "Americans already argue about politics enough outside of church. They don't want pastors bringing those arguments into worship."

The same survey, however, shows a majority of Americans don't think churches should be punished for their involvement in campaigns. Slightly more than half (52%) disagreed with the statement that churches should lose their tax exemption for publicly endorsing candidates.

McConnell, Scott (LifeWay Research)"Clearly Americans are not ready for the government or the IRS – either one – to be stepping in and regulating what churches are saying," McConnell adds.

Forty-two percent of Americans said churches publicly endorsing candidates should lose their tax exemption; five percent were not sure.

In 1954, the Johnson Amendment changed the U.S. tax code to prohibit certain tax-exempt organizations – including churches – from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Violation of that rule, says the IRS, may result in denial or revocation of an organization's tax-exempt status.

A commission convened by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability has recommended revisions to the Johnson Amendment restoring the constitutional rights of free speech and free exercise of religion to churches and other organizations affected.

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