The Truth About the Separation of Church and State

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Overview

The words “separation of Church and State” are not found anywhere in the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or the Declaration of Independence. Yet, every day, you hear that you can or cannot do something in a public place because of the “separation of Church and State.”

Issue Analysis

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

So where did the phrase “separation of Church and State” come from?

This phrase came from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to a group of Christians from the Baptist denomination. These Christians were concerned that accepting the Constitution could ultimately allow the federal government to restrict religious freedom. Jefferson reassured them in this letter that the Constitution “build[s] a wall of separation between Church and State,” which would protect them from the government interfering with their religious beliefs. (You can read the whole letter for yourself on the Library of Congress’s website: www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9806/danpre.html.)

Thus the phrase was designed to explain that the government could not cross over to interfere in the Church’s affairs. But, in 1947, the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Everson v. Board of Education took that phrase and turned it backwards to mean that religion must not be allowed to influence the State’s affairs.

Talking Points

  • The phrase of “separation of Church and State” is not in the Constitution. When Thomas Jefferson first wrote that phrase in a letter to a Baptist church, he was explaining that the government could not cross over to interfere in the Church’s affairs.
  • The Constitution doesn’t only guarantee our “freedom to worship” but also our freedom to practice and promote our faith. Americans don’t have to leave their faith and convictions at their church door; we have the right to carry them with us in all aspects of our lives.

Conclusion

Since 1947, anti-religious groups have used the term “separation of Church and State” to silence people of faith from speaking about their religious beliefs in the public square. But, in many cases, this is just an intimidation tactic and is not legally accurate.

This is particularly true for students in public schools and colleges. You have the right to speak about your faith, pray, lead a Bible study, and more!

Contact Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) at legal@azpolicy.org for more information regarding your rights to freely exercise your religious beliefs in the public square.

© January 2014 Center for Arizona Policy, Inc. All rights reserved.
This publication includes summaries of many complex areas of law and is not specific legal advice to any person. Consult an attorney if you have questions about your specific situation or believe your legal rights have been infringed. This publication is educational in nature and should not be construed as an effort to aid or hinder any legislation.

Churches and Pastors

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What Churches and Pastors Can and Cannot Do

 

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Overview

Churches have a major role to play in addressing the cultural and moral issues of our day. The voice of the church matters. In times such as these when we see timeless values under attack all around us in our society, the need for the Church to be a strong voice for biblical truth is more critical than ever.

Issue Analysis

Many churches and pastors have questions about how much they can be involved, particularly when it comes to election time. This hesitation has caused many churches to withdraw from the public arena instead of engaging in the debate. Many pastors believe they must keep silent because of their position of leadership in the church. This is simply not the case.

Although certain limitations are imposed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax code and campaign laws, churches and pastors have many legal avenues for speaking on vital moral issues.

The following guidelines, as well as the chart on page 3, are based on Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and publications by the IRS. They are designed to provide general guidance in determining how churches may be involved in public policy, the legislative process, and in elections. We recommend, however, that a church seek legal advice before making specific plans for action. Center for Arizona Policy’s (CAP) legal department is available as a free resource to you on these issues, so please contact us at 602-424-2525 or legal@azpolicy.org.

Legislative Activity

Generally speaking, as nonprofit entities regulated under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, churches may engage in limited attempts to “influence legislation” and still qualify for nonprofit tax status. However, the activity must not constitute more than an “insubstantial” part of a church’s overall activity, including time and money. The amount allowed by the code is not clear-cut.

A fairly safe gauge is to limit legislative activity to less than 5 percent of the church’s overall activity. In some cases, the IRS has allowed activity between 5 and 20 percent; but more than 20 percent has been found unacceptable.

“Legislative activity” is any activity intended to influence legislation – bills before the U.S. Congress or state legislature, measures before city councils, initiatives, and referenda. These activities include: directly contacting elected officials about legislation, urging church members and others to communicate with legislators about legislation, and circulating petitions related to legislation.

As long as a church stays within the appropriate amount of activity, it may engage in any or all of these activities. What does all this mean? If your church budget is $1,000,000, you can safely spend up to $50,000 directly influencing legislation – sending a mailing to church members asking them to call legislators on a bill to regulate abortion or urging them to vote against an initiative to expand gambling, for example.

Pastors, you can mention the bill number by name from the pulpit and give out contact information for key legislators. You can preach about gambling, abortion, or homosexuality, and then urge your members to call their elected officials on a particular bill related to the issue.

Moreover, a pastor has complete freedom to preach about biblical perspectives on current social issues without discussing any specific pending legislation. There is no limit when preaching in general terms about social issues.

Election and Political Campaigns

The IRS code is far more restrictive on churches and other nonprofit organizations in election activities. Partisan activity is prohibited completely, including engaging in any activity in support of or opposition to any candidate for political office or involvement in the political campaign of a candidate. However, some nonpartisan activity, particularly voter registration and voter education, is allowed.

Not only can you register voters at your church, you are free to endorse and distribute to all your church members nonpartisan voter guides that do not endorse candidates, but provide all candidates with an opportunity to answer questions on a variety of issues.

There is no legal restriction whatsoever on the ability of churches to register voters or provide them candidate survey information — in other words, funds and time spent on these activities are not counted toward the 5 percent limitation discussed above. No limitations are placed on church members, including pastors, when acting as private individuals and not on behalf of the church, as long as no church facilities or resources are used.

The Unique Voice of Pastors

Pastors have every right to speak out on the moral and political issues of our time. As discussed above, pastors can encourage their churches to be involved in the policy making process, even to the extent of specifically mentioning issues or pending bills. When it comes to political campaigns, pastors should make it clear that their church does not endorse specific candidates for office. As individuals, pastors are free to endorse, support, and donate money to political candidates.

Political Involvement for Churches and Pastors

This list is designed to provide an overview of the standards for church political involvement. It is not meant to provide specific legal advice and is not an exhaustive list.

 

Church Activity Permissible?
Conduct nonpartisan voter registration Yes
Conduct nonpartisan ‘get-out-the-vote” activities Yes
Distribute nonpartisan voter guides Yes
Distribute nonpartisan voting records Yes
Support or oppose legislation Yes
Support or oppose ballot initiatives Yes
Support or oppose political or judicial nominee Yes
Support or oppose political candidates No
Candidate speaks at church (not identified as candidate; campaign not mentioned) Yes
Host forum for political candidates (all candidates invited) Yes
Political fundraising Yes
Sale or rent church list to candidate at market value (available to all candidates) Yes
Provide link on church’s website to candidate’s campaign website No
Contribute to political candidates No
Contribute to political action committees (PACs) No
Offer bulletin or newsletter ads at market rate Yes
Pastor Activity Permissible?
Conduct nonpartisan voter registration Yes
Distribute nonpartisan voter guides Yes
Distribute nonpartisan voting records Yes
Support or oppose legislation Yes
Support or oppose ballot initiative Yes
Support or oppose political or judicial nominee Yes
As an individual, pastor endorses or opposes political candidate (no church resources or facilities used) Yes
Pastor endorses or opposes political candidate from pulpit No
As an individual, political fundraising (no church resources or facilities used) Yes
As an individual, contribute to political candidates (no church resources or facilities used) Yes
As an individual, contribute to political action committees (PACs) (no church resources or facilities used) Yes
Conduct nonpartisan get out the vote measures Yes

Questions: For more information see IRS Publication 1828 and Fact Sheet 2006-17, both available at www.irs.gov or contact CAP’s legal department: 602-424-2525 or legal@azpolicy.org.

Talking Points:

  • The First Amendment protects the rights of churches and religious leaders to speak out on public issues.Churches have the right to speak about the critical issues of our time.
  • Churches and pastors are free to register voters, distribute nonpartisan voter guides, and even take positions on ballot initiatives and referendums.Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) is here to serve ministry leaders. If there is ever any question about your rights, call the CAP office at 602-424-2525.

Conclusion

We hope this document makes clear that churches can do much to help their constituents become salt and light in our state and country. God ordained the institution of government to serve certain purposes, and Christians who are committed to seeing our laws and culture reflect biblical wisdom and righteousness have every right to participate and have our voice heard in the marketplace of ideas.

© May 2018 Center for Arizona Policy, Inc. All rights reserved. This publication includes summaries of many complex areas of law and is not specific legal advice to any person. Consult an attorney if you have questions about your specific situation or believe your legal rights have been infringed. This publication is educational in nature and should not be construed as an effort to aid or hinder any legislation.

Churches and Pastors

VIDEO America’s Anti-Religious Bigotry – Why Christians Are Losing Their Country

AMERICA’S ANTI-RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY

Exclusive: Jason & David Benham blast ultimate goal of leftist

April 7, 2019

Abraham Lincoln once said, “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”

We’ve seen that to be true, which is why USA Today’s recent story grabbed our attention last week: “So Yale Law School endorses anti-religious bigotry now?”

Oh boy – what now?!

The story basically describes the digressive nature of the progressive movement’s goal to silence freedom of speech and slay freedom of religion. That’s why the ceiling consistently becomes the floor with these folks. First they want acceptance of their ideas, then appreciation, then celebration, then participation – and if you choose not to join the revolution, they’ll marginalize you, demonize you, and eventually criminalize you if they can (wow, that was a mouthful).

Because you can’t have free speech and free religion if you want to destroy American values, you need government coercion; and to get that, you need a crop of future leaders fully indoctrinated to hate freedom of speech and religion (well, at least freedom of speech and religion that’s different from theirs).

The article reported the Yale Federalist Society scheduled an event in February with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a premier legal organization with nine Supreme Court wins in the last seven years. But before the event took place, over 20 campus organizations condemned the group as “homophobic and hateful” because it has defended religious freedom – and won – on multiple occasions. Their most recent victory included the Colorado cake baker.

And, like a set of perfectly aligned dominoes, the dean of the school fell directly into line with the protestors. By late March, the school had adopted new policies that went even further than the protestor’s demands. Samuel Adkisson, himself a Yale grad, summed it up like this:

Under the guise of nondiscrimination, Yale Law School has announced it will blatantly discriminate. A student is barred from aid if she works at a synagogue that gives preference to Jewish applicants, but not if she works at an organization that peddles anti-Semitism yet hires all comers. A graduate is blocked from funding if she works for the Christian Legal Society, but not if she works for the Freedom from Religion Foundation. And a graduate is not eligible to receive loan assistance if she is a professor at Brigham Young University, but is eligible if she works for Berkeley.

Nice.

There are a couple key points I’d like to point out.

First, Lincoln’s quote was spot on – kids in college today do become leaders in government tomorrow. So it matters where we are sending our kids and what they are being taught.

Dr. Elton Trueblood, a former chaplain for Stanford and Harvard in the early 20th century, was asked what it would look like for Christians in America in the 21st century. His response was eerily prophetic: “By the year 2000, Christians in America will be a conscious minority surrounded by an arrogant, militant paganism.”

He saw the direction progressives were taking our colleges, and his discerning reply was our warning. Now it’s here.

Second, those saying all we need today is more “conversation and dialogue” should understand that it requires shared values and common goals with those to whom we converse to move forward as a society. But that’s not what the progressive left wants.

A traffic analogy works well here. Traffic flows in America, despite the cars we drive, what we listen to on the radio or think about other drivers, because we all have the shared value that red means stop and green means go – and we all have the common goal of making it to our destination safely.

But if people don’t share those values or goals traffic would quickly become unsafe – it would turn into chaos. And that’s the ultimate goal of the left.

Which brings me to my last point. God is not the author of chaos and confusion, the devil is. At the bottom of this struggle on college campuses (not to mention mainstream media and Hollywood) is a spiritual battle between good and evil, right and wrong.

It’s not a Republican/Democrat thing, conservative/liberal thing, black/white thing, citizen/immigrant thing, or any other thing the left decides to foment. It’s a spiritual battle that truly rages behind the scenes.

Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
‘Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.’ (Psalm 2:1-3)

Matthew Henry, the 18th-century Bible commentator, said of Psalm 2 that people throughout history constantly seek to cast off “the bands of conscience and the cords of God’s commandments.”

That’s why conscience and conviction are in the cross-airs of the radical Left. It’s spiritual, even if they don’t know it.

And Revelation 12:17 reveals that Satan is behind it all:

Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

Those who choose to live by their conscience and conviction and honor God’s moral commands in today’s America find themselves directly in opposition to the dragon of Revelation – Satan himself.

Those on the radical left have no idea the spirit under which they are operating, so we are hitting our knees in pray more than ever for them to be set free.

Because the good news of the Gospel is still the good news – that Jesus defeated the devil at the Cross and is clothed with resurrection power.

Happy Easter.

https://www.wnd.com/2019/04/americas-anti-religious-bigotry/
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WHY CHRISTIANS ARE LOSING THEIR COUNTRY

Exclusive: Jesse Lee Peterson blasts left for attacking people for telling truth

April 7, 2019

America is a Christian nation, but that fact has been under attack by the children of the lie. The left has pushed immorality to the point we have so-called “same-sex marriage” and “transgender” nonsense trampling the rights of Christians. “People of color” and “women” join the attack on freedom of speech and our rights to self-defense. Good people are accused of “hate speech,” punished for telling the truth in public – or even in private!

Christians, men and especially white people are under attack. Christians are forced to bake “gay cakes” for homosexuals pretending to get “married.” Men are falsely accused of “sexual harassment,” “sexual assault” or of being “child molesters” – and they’re not allowed to say the women are lying! Children are abused by women, even killed in the womb, and the man can’t do anything to protect his children. White people are called “racist” just for loving their country, for telling the truth about “people of color,” or for standing up for white people.

A decade ago, the fallen messiah Barack Obama claimed America is “no longer a Christian nation.” He pushed homosexuality and transgender madness, and took up for Muslims at every opportunity. He was the first “feminist” president, and loved abortion.

Obama attacked whites and police, making blacks feel justified in their anger and false victimhood. He brought Black Lives Matter to the White House – a group worse than the KKK, founded by black lesbians, homosexuals and white “social justice warriors.” They killed the souls of black people by pushing anger, and their attacks on police resulted in an increase in murders around the country.

You cannot be a Christian and support the Democrat Party. After Obama, they’ve only grown more radical, electing far-left Muslims, homosexuals, and women – in order to attack a real men, President Trump. Donald Trump represents everything they hate – the goodness of America. The straight, white, conservative, Christian man of power built this country. But leftists don’t want America to be made great again, so they go after all males, white people, and Christians in order to take down Trump.

This week, they went after Democrat Joe Biden – Obama’s vice president. They accused him of sexual harassment with no proof. For years, Biden openly kissed and tried to flatter women and little girls in front of cameras – never trying to hide it. But now people impulsively judge him as “creepy,” watching suggestively edited videos that play on the imagination and people’s anti-male brainwashing. In the old days, men warned you to believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see.

But Biden as a hated “white male” is not welcome in the Democrat Party. They want a woman or a “person of color” to run for president.

Men have been trained by women to show affection, to worship women, make them feel special – but only with “consent.” Meanwhile, women throw themselves on men, hug and kiss men without permission, sexually assault them, and even rape men and young boys. Even Christians join in on this double-standard, in which every man is a suspected “rapist” or “child molester.” At our recent Men’s Forum at my nonprofit BOND, a home contractor said he wears a camera on himself all day to prevent being accused!

The city of Chicago recently elected a black lesbian for mayor. She’s pretending she will end the corruption in the city. But she herself is morally corrupt – she has no values. She’ll go after the Christians, white people and men, and only further destroy the city.

There are homosexuals who are stuck in that lifestyle but know it’s wrong. But this new mayor-elect, Lori Lightfoot, is promoting wrong as right. Similarly, Pete Buttigieg, a homosexual Millennial mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is trying to run for president. The corrupt liberal media love him for being shamelessly homosexual. The mayor of Dallas, Annise Parker, is a lesbian with a pretend “wife.” Females on the Supreme Court and in Congress have conducted so-called same-sex “weddings.”

In Ireland, they have a homosexual prime minister who brought his gay “partner” to America for an official event with Vice President Mike Pence. This man, Leo Varadkar, gave a slap in the face to Christians, speaking against “discrimination.” The radical homosexuals are allowed to discriminate against Christians, but not the other way around. There is no freedom.

Christians have lost their countries because Christians are no longer any different from the world. They believe that they can be born again of God and continue to sin. The men are controlled by women – they kiss up to women in their personal lives and in politics. The whites are afraid to tell the truth to the people of color. The Christians have anger in their hearts, playing God – there’s no love in anger, but only fear, doubt, worry and insecurity. Christian parents are sacrificing their children to corrupt schools where kids come out liberal, turning away from God.

If you want your country to be right, you have to be right. As Christ said, you must become perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect.

https://www.wnd.com/2019/04/why-christians-are-losing-their-country

Yale Law School Yanks Stipends From Students Who Work For Christian Firms

Yale has found a roundabout way to blacklist legal and nonprofit organizations that don’t adhere to Yale’s understanding of gender identity.

Yale Law School Yanks Stipends From Students Who Work For Christian Firms

April 1, 2019 by Aaron Haviland

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the challenges of being a Christian and a conservative at Yale Law School. A few days ago, the law school decided to double down and prove my point.

After the Yale Federalist Society invited an attorney from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a prominent Christian legal group, to speak about the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, conservative students faced backlash. Outlaws, the law school’s LGBTQ group, demanded that Yale Law School “clarify” its admissions policies for students who support ADF’s positions. Additionally, Outlaws insisted that students who work for religious or conservative public interest organizations such as ADF during their summers should not receive financial support from the law school.

On March 25, one month after the controversy, Yale Law School announced via email that it was extending its nondiscrimination policy to summer public interest fellowships, postgraduate public interest fellowships, and loan forgiveness for public interest careers. The school will no longer provide financial support for students and graduates who work at organizations that discriminate on the basis of “sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.”

Yale based its decision on a unanimous recommendation from the school’s Public Interest Committee. The committee explained: “The logic of our broader recommendation is that Yale Law School does not and should not support discrimination against its own students, financially or otherwise. Obviously, the Law School cannot prohibit a student from working for an employer who discriminates, but that is not a reason why Yale Law School should bear any obligation to fund that work, particularly if that organization does not give equal employment opportunity to all of our students.”

The law school also thanked Outlaws for raising this issue.

Too Vague and Broad

Conservative students who read the announcement were outraged. At first glance, the policy looks like it applies to organizations with disfavored policy positions. A student working for ADF, for example, would not receive school funding because ADF advocates for natural marriage.

In private emails to students, however, the Yale administration has been presenting a narrower explanation of the new policy. The school’s funding restrictions will only apply to organizations with disfavored hiring practices.

While admitting that there are still many details to be worked out, Yale currently says it envisions a self-certification process for employers. For a Yale student to receive a summer public interest fellowship, the employer must certify that it is in compliance with Yale’s nondiscrimination policy. If an organization does not self-certify, then the student will receive no financial support from the law school.

For organizations like ADF, this presents a problem. ADF employees must sign a statement of faith in which they affirm—among other principles—the Christian sexual ethic. This ethic teaches that “all forms of sexual immorality (including adultery, fornication, homosexual behavior, polygamy, polyandry, bestiality, incest, pornography, and acting upon any disagreement with one’s biological sex) are sinful and offensive to God.”

When asked specifically about ADF, Yale officials claimed they do not know enough about ADF’s hiring practices to make a determination. However, they admitted that if ADF does not certify that it will comply with Yale’s policy, then students working for ADF will be ineligible for public interest fellowships and the loan forgiveness program.

Discriminating Against Christians Is Totally Acceptable

When questioned about this new policy, Yale officials act puzzled as to why religious and conservative students and alumni are so worried. There are several reasons to be concerned.

First, Yale’s only assurances that the policy will be limited to hiring practices, and not applied to policy positions, are private emails sent to individual students. This is not enough. What ultimately matters is the text of the policy. Behind-the-scenes promises about how the policy will be interpreted and applied are not binding. The law school’s public position is too vague.

Second, even if this new policy is limited to hiring practices, it’s still deeply troubling. The policy was obviously a response to ADF. Yale made this clear when it thanked Outlaws for raising this issue, which was in the context of a protest against ADF. And in announcing the new policy, Yale said, “while the law governing nondiscrimination against LGBTQ people is subject to contestation, the Law School’s commitment to LGBTQ equality is not.”

Without naming ADF, Yale has found a roundabout way to functionally blacklist them and other organizations that do not adhere to Yale’s progressive understanding of gender identity. Law students and graduates will still receive funding to work at organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union that defend abortion, for example. But if students and graduates want to work for ADF or other similarly situated religious or conservative organizations, they will get no help.

Finally, Yale has already caved to one progressive demand by restricting financial support for conservative students. Who is to say that the school will not cave again and start denying admission to conservative applicants? There were certainly calls among the student body to do so. Progressive students are attempting to shrink the Overton Window of reasonable public discourse, and Yale seems all too willing to comply.

I still believe that there is plenty of good at Yale. As Justice Kavanaugh said, we should all strive to be “on the sunrise side of the mountain.” I am incredibly lucky to be here and am determined to leave this school without any anger or bitterness. But they’re making it hard.

Aaron Haviland is a student at Yale Law School. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and the University of Cambridge, and he served in the Marine Corps.

Photo Nick Allen / Wikimedia

https://thefederalist.com/2019/04/01/yale-law-school-yanks-stipends-students-work-christian-firms/