Since the passage of the 1954 “Johnson Amendment” restricting the free speech of churches, questions and doubts have risen among the hearts and minds of pastors. They have been told not to tackle tough topics that could be deemed political or politically incorrect. As pastors decided not to stand up to attacks on morality in America, we saw prayer and Bible reading taken out of public education within 10 years of the tax rule’s passage. Within another five years, the sexual revolution was in full force. Within another five years, some solution had to be made for all the unwanted children, and Roe v. Wade came into effect. By 1980, the Supreme Court ruled that the Ten Commandments could not be posted in schools, apparently afraid that our children might be adversely affected by such commands as do not steal, do not kill and respect your parents. Now we have metal detectors and police stationed in every school.
Churches played a key role in the establishment of America and play an invaluable role in its continued health and well being. As such, churches have been tax exempt from the very birth of America. Long before there was ever an IRS, churches were tax exempt. Every tax law ever introduced exempted churches. The Johnson Amendment is itself an unconstitutional law striking out at the very first amendment to the Constitution.
Pastors have the constitutional right to preach the Bible without censorship.
It was the event that history calls the “Great Awakening” that unified these 13 individual colonies as “One Nation Under God” as citizens realized that it was not your church membership that saved you, but a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
As citizens in these great colonies attempted to govern themselves, they were suppressed by a tyrant from across the Atlantic Ocean.
Several colonies voted to abolish slavery, which King George vetoed in 1774.
· Several colonies attempted to print Bibles and tracts. The king forbade these acts and forbade the colonist’s evangelization of the Indians.
· There was a great fear that King George was going to “establish” the Church of England as the official state church of the Colonies and thus make illegal the Puritan, Quaker, Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches and preachers.
· British soldiers were brought to America and stationed in homes of private citizens even though the Colonies were not at war with anybody. It was apparent that the colonists themselves had become the enemy to be suppressed by the Crown of England.
The Revolution was not about “taxation without representation;” it was about liberty from tyranny. In the list of 27 grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence, “taxation without representation” was not even in the top 10. It was number 17.
In 1818, John Adams, the second president and a Founding Father, wrote about what led to the Revolutionary War: “But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American War? The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people, a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations.”
In this same letter, he went on to name seven men most responsible for independence; two of the seven were pastors, Rev. Jonathon Mayhew and Rev. Samuel Cooper. Most of the others – men like Sam Adams, John Hancock, and John Adams – were members of their churches.
The British Parliament and the British Loyalists blamed the “Black Regiment” for stirring the hearts of the colonists to the call of liberty. The Black Regiment was meant to be a derogatory name for the pastors who would ascend to their pulpits in their black clerical robes every Sunday and proclaim liberty throughout the land. The Liberty Bell itself was inscribed with the Scripture text from Leviticus 25:10: “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”
It was this revival in our land that led to the first meeting of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia in September 1774. There is a famous painting of this event by T. H. Matteson. As these Founding Fathers met in Carpenter’s Hall trying to decide what their next step should be, they called for the local pastor of Christ’s Church to open their day on September 7 with prayer. Those men that modern historians claim were “atheists and deists” spent three hours on their knees in prayer and studied Psalm 35. John Adams recorded in a letter to his wife regarding that day, “(the Rev. Duche’)…read…the thirty-fifth Psalm. You must remember, this was the next morning after we heard the horrible rumor of the cannonade of Boston. I never saw a greater effect upon an audience. It seemed as if heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on that morning. After this, Mr. Duche’, unexpectedly to every body, struck out in an extemporary prayer, which filled the bosom of every man present. I must confess, I never heard a better prayer, or one so well pronounced.”
This event led to the eventual drafting of the birth certificate of America, the Declaration of Independence, which stated the reasons for the separation and the One who granted them the authority to do so.
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God (God’s Laws as recorded in the Holy Scriptures – Blackstone Commentary on Law, Book 1, Section 2) entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness (The right to obey the Word of God and the will of God. Being in the will of his Creator is the only way that a created being can be happy. – Blackstone’s Commentary on Law, Book 1, Section 2) — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.
When the Constitution was drafted, the Bill of Rights had to be added before the states would ratify it. The Bill of Rights were ten “handcuffs” placing limits on this new “federal” government and insuring and protecting the rights of the people. The number one item on their “Top Ten” list, the single most important issue included religious freedom, freedom of speech, assembly, petition and freedom of the press. We might think that is an odd mix to be lumped together, but our Founding Fathers did not.
The speech which the British Government sought to suppress was the speech of pastors. The “press” in that day was not as in our day. There wasn’t a USA Today or many daily newspapers. The main thing that was “published” by the printing press was sermons from pastors like Mayhew, Edwards, Whitefield, Cooper, Muhlenberg, and countless others that were printed and spread throughout the Colonies.
Pastors were Biblically called to be the “Watchmen” by Almighty God. Beginning with Enoch in Genesis 4 and continuing throughout the entirety of the Bible, pastors have been called to proclaim the Gospel and stand against immorality and corruption.
Our Founding Fathers recognized that the key to society of individual liberty was “self government.” Consider George Washington’s farewell address, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness…And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.”
President John Adams stated, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Historically in America, pastors played the key role in stirring the hearts of America toward liberty, knowing that all law (including political law and rulers) must be under the authority of God’s Law. To them, there was no such thing as “compartmentalizing” your Christianity. Jesus is either Lord of all or He isn’t Lord at all.