Only One US Church Has Ever Lost Non-Profit Status Over Political Preaching
Will Pastors Risk Tax-Free Status to Help Save America?—Calling Black Robe Regiment II
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Long before America’s current absolute separation of church and state, colonial pastors regularly preached on politics. According to historians, 18th century sermons decisively encouraged future revolutionaries to resist King George. Moreover, in Western history, important and far-reaching political doctrines were typically deduced first by pastors, Christian professors, and believing philosophers, etc. In fact, without these eminent and brave men, there would be no modern free and prosperous West.
But today, American Believers languish in a ghetto assembled for anyone suggesting religion should influence public policy. Yet, as our currency reveals, previously such influences were assumed. If our forebears were under the same secularist strictures seen today, the early West would have never escaped mediocrity.
This essay argues the Bible contains unique standards regarding mankind which, when correctly applied, benefit and protect everyone. Further, ministers, many loathe to mention politics for fear of government reprisal, must preach these things without dread. The only way these men can truly serve their flocks is by preaching the whole Gospel, not avoiding some because of menacing government masters. Remember Acts, 5:27-29
The apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin (Jewish Council) for questioning by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!”
I. Black Robe Regiment
A. Who Were the Black Robe Regiment?
This regiment was simply colonial American clergy using God-given freedoms of speech to describe biblical norms on proper, non-tyrannical government rule. These men were instrumental in the education and preparation of American revolutionaries in decades before the War of Independence. Writes Rev. Wayne C. Sedlak,
During the War of Independence were a group of heroic men referred to as the “Black Regiment”. The very name enraged the British armies. As war heroes, their courage & leadership were lauded from Massachusetts to Georgia. As a “regiment”, they never once drilled together, yet the strategic impact of their highly disciplined attacks was overwhelming. As a unit, they never fought together on a particular field of battle, yet without question, their leadership provided the spark which ignited victory after victory.
This “Black Regiment” was responsible for providing the conviction and wisdom necessary for winning a war against the cruelty of an unjust government. What was the “Black Regiment”? Actually, it wasn’t a regiment at all. It referred to the American Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Baptist clergy.
British sympathizers (Loyalists), so named them because of the black robes worn by the ministers when they ascended their pulpits each Lord’s Day. The name “stuck”. Colonial enemies knew that the seeds of what the British called “sedition’’ or “revolution” were being sown in the pulpits of America. Without the outspoken, tenacious and courageous leadership exhibited by the pastors of the “Black Regiment”, it is doubtful whether American independence could ever have been achieved.
II. Government Rules Against Politics in the Pulpit
A. IRS & Freedom of Pulpit
There are federal sanctions for American pastors preaching on political issues. The Alliance Defense Fund describes IRS rule against political preaching:
In 1954, U.S. Congress amended (without debate or analysis) Internal Revenue Code ¬ß501(c)(3), restricting speech of non-profit tax exempt entities, including churches. Before passage, no restrictions existed regarding how churches used speech regarding government and voting, excepting a 1934 law preventing non-profits using a substantial part of their resources to lobby for legislation.
The amendment, from then-Senator Lyndon Johnson, stated non-profit tax exempt entities couldn’t “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.” Since the amendment passed, the IRS steadfastly maintains any speech by churches about candidates for government office, including sermons, can result in loss of tax exemption.
B. Pulpit Freedom Sunday: October 7, 2012
On Oct. 7, hundreds of Christian pastors will engage in a mass act of civil disobedience across the USA. From Sunday pulpits, they will purposely violate federal law by openly opposing or endorsing political candidates.
Why break the law on purpose?
These mostly evangelical pastors will attempt to lure the Internal Revenue Service into fining a church or taking away its tax-exempt status. If the IRS takes the bait, this case will be challenged all the way to the Supreme Court to overturn the law.
The group pushing this legal test, Alliance Defense Fund, has gathered increasingly more pastors since 2008. The yearly autumn protest—Pulpit Freedom Sunday, occurs just before elections. Many participating pastors are eager to turn the US into “a Christian nation” by playing a direct role in politics.
Ironically, only a single church ever lost its tax exempt status over the rule, and yet hundreds of thousands of pastors are cowed into silence every week by such fears.
III. Preaching on Proper Government: Original Black Robe Regiment
A. Great Historic Moments in Christian Statecraft
Breakthroughs in political achieved by Christian thinkers are too numerous to list, but consider the following five achievements:
1. Alfred the Great set the Ten Commandments as the center of English law, using biblical legal analysis for his laws, laying the foundation for subsequent development of Common Law.
2. Christian scholar William of Ockham’s analysis of mankind’s place after expulsion from Paradise, helped develop the ideas of Natural Law, Consent of the Governed, & Natural Rights.
3. Magna Carta, the greatest legal document in British and American history, was articulated and composed by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury.
4. Lex Rex, famed call for a Rule of Law above king, composed by famed Scots Presbyterian pastor Samuel Rutherford divinity professor at University of St. Andrews.
5. Constitutionalism is applied Rule of Law, championed by Puritan-trained John Locke, advocating separation of powers and limitations of government to minimize threats of tyranny.
B. Quotes From US Colonial Black Robe Regiment Pulpits
1. Call for Moral Government: Civil Magistrates Must be Just, Ruling in the Fear of God
Charles Chauncy (Harvard) 1747 Boston
Text: The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me; he that ruleth over Men must be just, ruling in the Fear of God. (II Sam. 23:3)
Judged by the manner in which these words are introduced, there are none in all the bible, applicable to civil rulers, in their public capacity, of more solemn importance:
I. There is a certain order among mankind, according to which some are entrusted with power to rule over others.
II. Those who rule over others must be just, ruling in the fear of God.
2. Natural Rights: Essential Rights & Liberties of Protestants
Elisha Williams (Yale) 1744 Boston
These Rights & Liberties include:
a. Property: Every man having a property in his own person, the labour of his body and the work of his hands are properly his own, to which no one has right but himself.
b. Civil Law: Obedience due government is limited. Salus populi est lex suprema, ie the end of all humane authority is the good of the public.
c. Positive Law: Every law not contrary to a superior law is to be obeyed.
d. End of Law is Protection of Life, Liberty & Property: Whenever government power is applied to any other end than preservation persons and properties, (according to the great Mr. Lock) it becomes tyranny.
e. General Call to Christian Freedom. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty. Gal. 4. 31.
f. Natural Law: Natural freedom is not liberty to do whatever one pleases, ignoring written law; but consists in freedom from any superiour power on earth, and having only the law of nature (ie of God) for his rule.
3. Right to Truly Representational Congress: The Snare Broken
Jonathan Mayhew (Harvard) 1766 Boston
Affirmation of British Rights in Colonial America:
As free-born men, never enslaved by right of conquest in war, nor sold as slaves, so we have natural rights, till we have freely consented to part with them, either in person, or by those whom we have appointed to represent, and to act for us. This natural right is declared, affirmed and secured to us, as British subjects, by Magna Charta; all acts contrary to which, are said to be ipso facto null and void.
Having been initiated, in youth, in the doctrines of civil liberty, taught by Plato, Demosthenes, Cicero and other renowned ancients; and such as Sidney, Milton & Locke, among moderns; I liked them; they seemed rational. Having earlier learnt from holy scripture, that wise, brave and vertuous men were always friends to liberty; that the Son of God came down from heaven, to make us “free indeed”; and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty”; this made me conclude freedom was a great blessing. Yet, she seems about to take her final departure from America, leaving that ugly hag slavery, deformed child of Satan, in her room.
4. Righteousness of Resisting Tyranny: Divine Judgments Upon Tyrants
Jacob Cushing (Harvard) 1778 Boston
Text: Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people, for he wilt avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries; and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people. (Deuteronomy, 32:43)
On Christian Warfare: Cultivate, my friends, a martial spirit, strive to excel in the art of war, to qualify to act the part of soldiers well; and, under providence, be helpful in vanquishing and subduing the enemies of God; and be numbered among those who shall be worthy to wear the laurels of victory and triumph. True Christians, good soldiers of Jesus Christ, fight manfully under his banner, as high priests of your profession, and great captain of your salvation.
5. Saluting the Constitution: Sermon on Day of Commencement of the Constitution
Samuel Cooper (Harvard) 1780 Boston
Text: Their Congregation shall be established before me: and their Nobles shall be of themselves, and their Governor shall proceed from the midst of them. (Jeremiah, 30: 20-21)
The form of government originally established in the Hebrew nation by a charter from heaven, was a free republic, with God himself presiding. It consisted of three parts; a chief magistrate who was called judge or leader, such as Joshua, a council of seventy chosen men, and the general assemblies of the people. Of these the two last were the most essential and permanent, and the first more occasional, according to the particular circumstances of the nation. The assemblies of the people were frequently held by divine appointment, considered the fountain of civil power. Even the law of Moses, though framed by God himself, was not imposed upon Hebrews against their will; it was laid open before the whole congregation of Israel; they freely adopted it. It became their law, not only by divine appointment, but by voluntary and express consent. Upon this account it is called in the sacred writings a covenant, compact, or mutual stipulation. A solemn renewal of this covenant was the very last public act of Joshua their renowned leader.
In USA, 75% claim Christianity. About 40% of 300 million Americans attend church weekly. So approximately 120 million are regularly listening to 300,000 pulpits. If even 25% of pastors explained Biblical standards, 30 million Americans would have weekly teaching on making USA more Christlike, including voting for more godly leaders. If half, or 15 million, decided to vote per biblical norms, it could spark a massive return to America’s lost biblical society, as when the Founding Fathers decided to throw a Revolution.