Politics 2012: Pastors, Political Speech and Federal Tax Law

The pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas prides himself on being outspoken. In some cases that is good, but in other cases he does not serve the cause of Christ. The pastor supports Rick Perry over Mitt Romney as Republican nominee for President because Romney is not a Christian. But the moment you think you understand the pastor’s ethical rule — choose a Christian over a non-Christian — he jumps sideways by saying he would pick Romney (a non-Christian) over President Obama, who has always affirmed Christian faith.

Perhaps you know that the pastor is violating federal law by advocating particular political candidates in this fashion. First Baptist Church of Dallas is a non-profit corporation under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and to obtain that tax-free status the church expressly agreed not to speak out in favor of particular political candidates. They applied for tax-free status knowing this law, which is part of the application. Many pastors know these facts, but they violate the federal law anyway. There’s nothing like having it both ways. The end justifies the means, right? I don’t think Jesus ever taught that! In fact, Jesus obeyed the tax law of his time even when he had good reason to be considered exempt (Matt. 17:24-27).

So, as I understand this particular pastor’s ethical hierarchy as a pastor, it is:

  1. Support the Republican Party over anything.
  2. Support Christians over non-Christians.
  3. Obey the federal law, if supporting 1 and 2 allow you to do so, which they don’t.
  4. Imitate Jesus.

Copyright © 2011 Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!