Pulpit Freedom Sunday - History of the Johnson Amendment


The future of religious freedom depends on a free pulpit to communicate fundamental, biblical principles to congregations across America. Join a growing movement of bold pastors preaching biblical Truth about candidates and elections from their pulpits on October 5, 2014.

History of the Johnson Amendment

The Johnson Amendment was passed by Congress in 1954 as an amendment to section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code. The Johnson Amendment states that entities who are exempt from federal income tax cannot:

Participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of – or in opposition to – any candidate for public office.

The Johnson Amendment was added to the tax code as a result of the political machinations of Lyndon B. Johnson who was running for reelection to the United States Senate. One scholar who studied this extensively concluded that the Johnson Amendment "is not rooted in constitutional provisions for separation of church and state…. Johnson was not trying to address any constitutional issue related to separation of church and state; and he did not offer the amendment because of anything that churches had done." Click here to read a scholarly history of the Johnson Amendment.

Since its passage in 1954, the Johnson Amendment has been applied to prohibit what a pastor says from the pulpit concerning candidates who are running for elective office. This means that under current IRS regulations, a pastor cannot say anything from the pulpit that may constitute support for – or opposition to – a political candidate.

It has not always been this way. For almost the first 200 years of America's history, pastors frequently spoke out with great boldness about the great moral and social issues of the day and about the candidates running for office.

Yet today, the voice of the Church has been silenced by the Johnson Amendment – an unjust and unconstitutional law. If you are interested in participating in this year’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday to help restore a pastor’s right to speak freely from the pulpit, click here to sign up.


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Pulpit Freedom Sunday is a project of the Alliance Defending Freedom but participation does not necessarily mean association with Alliance Defending Freedom. Alliance Defending Freedom reserves the right to limit representation of participants to those approved by Alliance Defending Freedom. Participation in Pulpit Freedom Sunday does not create an attorney-client relationship with Alliance Defending Freedom. Alliance Defending Freedom will timely review any request for legal representation regarding a Pulpit Freedom Sunday sermon, but reserves the right to decline legal representation based on its legal judgment. Nothing in this communication should be taken as a guarantee of legal representation, as Alliance Defending Freedom will independently evaluate each individual request for legal representation. Alliance Defending Freedom does not endorse or oppose political parties or candidates, nor does it urge allegiance to any political party or candidate.Alliance Defending Freedom  does believe that churches and pastors have the freedom to plainly speak Scriptural truth about the qualifications of candidates for public office – regardless of candidates’ political affiliation. The information contained on this website is general in nature and is not intended to provide, or be a substitute for, legal analysis, legal advice, or consultation with appropriate legal counsel. You should not act or rely on information contained in this document without seeking appropriate professional advice. The Alliance Defending Freedom, Inc., is not providing legal advice, and the use of this website is not intended to constitute advertising or solicitation, and does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Alliance Defending Freedom or between you and any Alliance Defending Freedom employee. IRS CIRCULAR 230 DISCLOSURE: Any tax advice contained in this communication was not written for the purpose of – and is not intended to be used for the purpose of – (i) avoiding penalties imposed by the Internal Revenue Code; or of (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending any transaction or matter addressed herein.

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