Pulpits as Culprits? Pastors Preach Politics
This past Sunday over 1400 pastors across the country joined “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” consciously and overtly challenging the separation of church and state. This was not a slip of the tongue or a clergy member accidentally overstepping the ethical line. Instead, this was a direct affront to the distinction outlined in the Constitution. The organizers of the event framed this as a challenge to IRS tax code, but it is actually a thinly veiled attempt at chipping away at America’s founding principles.
Our nation was founded by those who were committed to ensuring religious liberty. That commitment stemmed in large part from our Pilgrim forbearers, who fled religious persecution. As Jews (a religious minority), we must always be vigilant in the protection of religious liberty. Through history we have learned that freedom of religion comes hand-in-hand with its separation from the state. This has been America’s hallmark for over 200 years, and one that we cannot abandon now.
The United States currently is the most religiously diverse country in the world. That is, although the largest portions of our population identify as Protestant Christian, those that fall outside this category represent a huge array of faith traditions. Minority rights must be preserved or we risk losing the incredible cultural gems our different heritages provide.
The harm goes both ways. When the two spheres mix, it threatens not only the religious freedom of our state, but it also damages the religious sector itself. The pastors of last Sunday are not the only religious voice in the room. In fact, they are not even the loudest voice in the room. A recent Pew study shows that 70% of Americans believe that churches and other houses of worship should not come out in favor of one political candidate over another. On top of this, it is in the church’s best interest to maintain its integrity. Our clergy must have the freedom to be the prophetic voices of our communities, unfettered by government interference.
Have questions about your own pulpit’s role in politics and the upcoming election? Check out our “Dos and Don’ts Guide.”
Photo courtesy of Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.