East Texas ministers worry over plan to endorse candidates from pulpit
Several pastors from across the nation say they intend to endorse a political candidate from their pulpit this Sunday. And that news has captured the attention of ministers and pastors here in east Texas. As KLTV 7's Bob Hallmark shows us, those ministers worry that the act could have unpleasant consequences.
"My initial reaction is, it's illegal. If he wants to enjoy the tax exempt status for charitable groups like churches if we accept the benefit of tax exempt status, then we accept the responsibility and the legal obligations that go along with that and we can't endorse candidates, per se," said David English, the First Baptist Church Associate pastor.
Over 2 dozen religious leaders from 22 states, including Georgia pastor Jody Hice, will violate the ban on endorsing candidates this weekend, claiming Biblical truth allows for religious freedom of speech. That's something local pastors think is dangerous.
"In my view, that is not wise. It's not the position of the pastor or leadership of a church to tell that congregation that this particular person is who you should vote for," said Troy Bayne, the Longview Christian Church minister.
"We will vote, we're going to be good citizens, we should pray for our leaders whether we agree with them or not. It's a different issue but the issue of endorsing would be forbidden if we're to enjoy the tax exempt status," said Pastor English.
Churches, like charities and universities, do not pay taxes, and are not allowed to endorse or oppose candidates.
East Texas ministers are quick to point out that houses of worship should remain out of politics.
"Christ spent his his time on spiritual matters, he didn't deal with all the ethical issues of the day. He dealt with some, but certainly didn't deal with candidates," said Pastor English.
"Putting ourselves in those positions where we're stating political positions I believes hinders that ability to become a service agent in the community," said Troy Bayne. "We are here for spiritual issues and this distracts from that in a significant way. We as a church ought to be focusing on God's word."
The pastors we spoke with today want to make sure it is understood that none of them are affiliated with the group staging the endorsement.