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Thursday, November 1, 2012 - 11:36am

GA Religious Leaders Challenge IRS Law

Some religious leaders in Georgia are challenging a decade’s old tax law that prohibits preaching about politics from the pulpit.

There’s a new movement to defy the Johnson Amendment, which changed US tax code in 1954. It prohibits tax exempt organizations, like churches from endorsing or opposing political candidates.

Jerry Helton leads Blairsville’s House of Prayer Interdenominational Church. He says he has an obligation to his congregation to discuss political issues--- even at the risk of losing his tax exempt status if sanctioned by the IRS:

“I just want them to know that it’s not only OK, but it’s our moral responsibility to be informed as citizens on our country and our leaders, to pray for our leaders. We have a mandate to pray for them, and that mandate doesn’t say pray for Republicans or pray for Democrats or Independents, it just says pray for those in authority over you.”

The group “Alliance Defending Freedom” is planning to hire lawyers to support churches that get sanctioned. Eric Stanley, with Alliance Defending Freedom, says nearly 40 religious leaders in Georgia participated in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” last month-- a day when pastors spoke freely about political issues:

“So that’s the goal, to hopefully generate a test case, through these pastors speaking out and to ultimately have the Johnson Amendment declared unconstitutional.”

So far, the federal government has not responded to the challenges to the law.

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