Politics in the Pulpit

Religious Liberties Practice Group and The Alliance Defense Fund

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Politics in the PulpitIn 1954, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas introduced legislative language that changed the IRS code, prohibiting non-profits and churches from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Critics of the Johnson Amendment assert that this provision in the code – Section 501(c)(3) – violates the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause, while supporters contend the Johnson Amendment preserves the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

Our panel will examine the application of the Johnson Amendment to religious ministers in their preaching duties during worship services. Does the Johnson Amendment constrain clergy from effectively imparting messages integral to their faith, or is it an appropriate safeguard to ensure that churches and government limit their respective activities? This event took place on May 20, 2009.


  • Benjamin W. Bull, Chief Counsel, Alliance Defense Fund
  • Professor Douglas Laycock, Yale Kamisar Collegiate Professor of Law, The University of Michigan Law School
  • Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Executive Director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State
  • Professor Donald B. Tobin, Associate Dean for Faculty, The Ohio State University, Michael E. Moritz College of Law
  • Moderator: Steffen N. Johnson, Esq., Winston & Strawn LLP
  • Introduction: Erik Stanley, Senior Legal Counsel, Alliance Defense Fund