Local pastors planning to break tax law this Sunday - FOX Carolina 21

Local pastors planning to break tax law this Sunday

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EASLEY, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Pastors across the nation say they've been silent too long, ordered by the government to keep politics out of the pulpit.

It's all because of an IRS rule that prohibits any group who is exempt from federal income tax from making statements in support of, or against a political campaign.

But Sunday, pastors across the country and even several in the Upstate are going against that law, and making those statements anyway.

"At first I thought, like a lot of pastors, if I preach a sermon like that what will the IRS do? Will they come after my church?" says Powersville First Baptist Church Pastor Brad Atkins.  

But that's a worry Atkins says he's now left far behind.

Atkins, and the more than 1,500 other pastors in the United States are standing up against the Johnson Amendment Sunday. The amendment is a federal tax code passed in 1954 prohibiting churches to say anything that could constitute support for or against a political candidate, or risk having to pay federal income taxes.

"I believe as a pastor, my church would say if it comes down to being tax exempt or knowing what the bible says, they are going to want to hear about the bible," said Atkins.

However, Atkins says he won't be telling his parish who to vote for.

"I'm not teaching a soap box sermon petitioning for any candidate, it's more of a what does the bible have to say about the issues," said Atkins.

Atkins said the issues now are same-sex marriage and abortion, but that doesn't mean he expects his parish to vote a certain way.

"It's not my place to say 'vote for this man or don't vote for this man,'" said Atkins. "My job is to say as an American it's your duty to get out and vote."

Thirty seven other South Carolina pastors are officially joining Atkins in the Pulpit Freedom Sunday movement, but FOX Carolina found even some pastors who weren't aware of the planned event are already fearlessly going against that tax code on a regular basis.

"We're still a church, we going to be a church whether we have tax exemption or not," said Arial Baptist Church Pastor Danny Parton. "So we're to preach the truth of God's word, and let the chips fall where they may."

Sunday the group that's holding the Pulpit Freedom Event, Alliance Defending Freedom, is offering any church that participates free legal assistance if the government attempts to change their tax status after their sermon.

FOX Carolina also found a group on Facebook under the name Bearing Witness to Pulpit Freedom Sunday. They say the movement goes against the separation of church and state and are strongly opposed to the event. FOX Carolina attempted to contact them for a statement, but did not receive a response.

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