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."
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.
To contact your Representative or Senator:
- If you do not know your U. S. Congressman, go to http://www.house.gov/writerep/ and type in your zip code to learn the name of your
- 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
U.S. House of
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,
formats (also available in Spanish).