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GOP Moves to Restore Free Speech for Pastors

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Congressional Republicans have moved to stop the IRS from enforcing a rule that prevents pastors or churches from endorsing political candidates.

House Republicans quietly included a provision in a sweeping spending bill that would deny the IRS money to enforce the 63-year-old rule, which is known as the Johnson Amendment.

"I believe that churches have a right of free speech and an opportunity to talk about positions and issues that are relevant to their faith," said Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Ohio.

Some Democrats say the measure comes too close to mixing church and state.

But Republicans say the IRS rule is enforced unevenly.

They say some churches in Democratic areas are openly supportive of political candidates, even letting some speak from pulpits, while some conservative churches try to avoid even the appearance of being political.

"Some churches, including my own, have been very concerned about appearing political in any way shape or form," Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio said.

"Churches I went to that were primarily in Democrat areas, that I would go to because I had a Democrat district, the local candidates on the Sunday mornings before the election would be introduced, would speak from the pulpit about the campaign and why the congregation should vote for them," Tiberi continued.

The measure will be considered by the House Appropriations committee after Congress's recess for the Fourth of July.


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