Hundreds of pastors preached politics from the pulpit on Sunday in a nationwide protest against the tax law banning churches from endorsing candidates.
The annual event is aimed at overturning the Internal Revenue Service rule that churches registered as 501(c)3 nonprofits could lose their tax-exempt status if their pastors back or attack political candidates in their sermons, according to The Wall Street Journal
Called Pulpit Freedom Sunday and organized by the Arizona-based conservative group Alliance Defending Freedom, nearly 1,500 pastors across the country took part this year during an election cycle in which same-sex marriage and abortion have become major issues between Democratic and GOP rivals.
The preachers are hoping that the political sermons in the vast number of churches will eventually lead to the U.S. Supreme Court having to rule on the controversial tax law.
In his sermon on Sunday, evangelical pastor Jim Garlow, of the Skyline Church in San Diego, called on his congregation of 2,000 to vote against gay Republican congressional candidate Carl DeMaio, The Journal said.
From the pulpit, he said, "I want marriage defined as one man one woman. You can't have the advancing of the radical homosexual agenda and religious liberty at the same time. One will win, one will lose."
And Garlow went on to say, "If a member of the IRS gets this sermon or is listening, sue me."
Garlow told his congregation that he's backing Democratic Rep. Scott Peters for the state's 52nd congressional district, and warned that if DeMaio is elected religious conservatives will "be left without a home."
Last month, a Pew Research Center survey found that nearly three-quarters of Americans believe religion is taking a backseat in the way that Americans lead their lives, while the poll also showed that a majority want religious leaders
to get more involved in political issues.
Earlier this year, as part of a federal lawsuit brought by the atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation, the IRS vowed to "initiate church tax investigations" to make certain that churches comply with its political speech regulation on churches.
"They want to have their cake and eat it too," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, referring to conservative church leaders.
Claiming that the rule unreasonably restricts the constitutional right to free speech, however, Garlow hit back, saying during an interview with The Journal, "There should not be pulpit police."
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