Mr. William J. Federer, a Missourian, is one of the most cheerful people I
have met. Despite this, Bill Federer’s writing always has a serious message.
His latest book is entitled Endangered
Speeches. In it, he traces the effort during the 20th Century to
assure that preachers were not involved in the political process. Federer
points out that prior to 1913 preachers never gave the Internal Revenue Service
or their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status a thought because there was no mechanism
which applied to them. From 1913 until
1954, most preachers simply ignored the IRS, as there was no reason for them to
In 1954, President Lyndon B. Johnson, running for re-election, heard that a
large group of Texas preachers would oppose him. So he hastily had Congress
enact a law which forbade churches from involvement in politics. That was
enough to silence preachers and LBJ was re-elected comfortably.
One might think that LBJ would have been content to leave well enough alone.
However, when he found out that the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) had
assisted Senator Barry M. Goldwater’s candidacy he scared William Broody, Sr.
into political uselessness so that AEI required years to recover.
Meanwhile, the IRS, which traditionally had been reluctant to interfere with
churches, this year cracked the whip so that most pastors were afraid of losing
their church’s loss of tax-exempt status and thereby stayed out of the 2008
elections even though there were moral issues on many state ballots.
Given the incoming presidential administration’s announced effort to
reinstate the so-called Fairness Doctrine, which some suggest should be renamed
the “Censorship Doctrine,” this attack upon churches is frightening. Senator A.
Mitchell (Mitch) McConnell, Jr. (R-KY) said he immediately would file
litigation contending that reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine constituted
unconstitutional censorship and an abridgement of our First Amendment rights.
However, such a lawsuit likely would take two years to work its way through the
courts. There is no question that our First Amendment is under assault. Read
Federer’s book to understand how American churches fit into the political
process. Then gear up for the fight on the re-christened Censorship Doctrine
and the Internet.