Close to 1,100 pastors have signed up for this weekend’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday, promising to dedicate their sermons to opposing marriage equality. Pulpit Freedom Sunday started as a project to challenge regulations that prohibit churches from enjoying tax-exempt status -- in effect a taxpayer subsidy -- if they endorse or oppose candidates for elected office. The event’s advocates, including Religious Right figures Jim Garlow and Harry Jackson, claim that the tax code muzzles pastors and will lead to the downfall of America.
Now with the presidential election over, Pulpit Freedom Sunday is moving its focus from endorsing candidates for office to denouncing marriage equality. It’s organizers go so far as to compare anti-gay pastors to pastors who spoke out against slavery:
Of course, pastors have long been able to freely discuss their support or opposition to marriage equality, but Pulpit Freedom Sunday supporters insist that they are subject to “government censorship or intimidation”:
But there are no national elections in 2013, so the focus this year is on what Stanley calls "the most pressing issue of our day."
"One of the things we've been saying to pastors is that even though this is a non-election year, it's not a non-engagement year for pastors," he said. "Pastors have a lot of work to do to educate even the church about what marriage is and why it should remain as God created it and intended for it to be. So we want pastors to feel free to do that, to know that they have support when they do so, to not fear any kind of government censorship or intimidation when they speak on those biblical issues that confront our culture."
Stanley says nearly 1,100 ministers had signed up to participate in this weekend's event as of Thursday. Event registration will be left open for several weeks for those who want to participate but are unable to do so this Sunday.
Michael Hirsch, senior pastor of Calvary Christian Church in Fredericksburg, Virg., has participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday three times and says the event is a show of "solidarity" among pastors.
"I believe that there are issues that are in society that are needing direction from a biblical worldview," Hirsch told The Christian Post. "Public policy affects every aspect of our culture and society. God ordained institutions like marriage right now, family, gender specificity, things that are very clear in the scripture, and so we need to speak out on them."