Bill Would Return Free Speech to Religious Leaders

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John Corn

John Corn

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http://www.gopusa.com/news/2003/september/0905_religious_speech.shtml

Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-NC) has introduced a bill in the U.S. House that would return First Amendment freedoms to religious leaders who have had their opinions regarding political, moral, and cultural issues suppressed by the government since 1954.

The Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act, or H.R. 235, was submitted by Jones to correct an action taken a half-century ago by then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson.

In 1954, Johnson spoke on the floor of the U.S. Senate and introduced an amendment that forbid any religious leaders to speak in their houses of worship on topics considered "partisan," including political, moral, or cultural issues.

As a result of the Johnson amendment, ministers are not allowed to speak about abortion, tax cuts, immoral behavior by an elected official or other political topics today. If they do, the federal government can direct the IRS to remove the church's tax-exempt status.

Jones believes this tactic by the federal government limits the free speech rights of ministers and church leaders.

I had no idea such a law existed, and it's ludicrous. A house of worship is no place to discuss moral or cultural issues? I would stop short of endorsing a party maybe, but it shouldn't be a law. Ironic that it was passed in the 1950s, but maybe someone could give me a backgrounder on this.
 
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