A large majority of Americans don’t want to hear political endorsements from the pulpit, according to a new report by LifeWay Research.
Four out of five Americans (79 percent) do not believe it is appropriate for pastors to endorse candidates during a church service and three fourths (75 percent) do not believe churches should publicly endorse candidates for public office, says a new report on religion and politics from the Southern Baptist Convention research arm housed at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn.
More than eight in 10 say it is inappropriate for churches to use their resources to campaign for candidates, yet fewer than half (42 percent) believe that churches who publicly endorse candidates should lose their tax-exempt status.
“Americans already argue about politics enough outside the church,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “They don’t want pastors bringing those arguments into worship.”
Evangelist Tony Campolo once famously observed that mixing government and church is “like mixing ice cream with horse manure: You will not ruin the horse manure, but it will ruin the ice cream.”
Since 2008 the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative activist group, has promoted an alternative message, encouraging pastors across the country to preach a political sermon on “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” to protest an IRS prohibition against tax-exempt charities like churches to endorse candidates.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has promised evangelical voters that if he elected he will work to repeal the “Johnson Amendment,” the 1954 change in the U.S. tax code named after then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson prohibiting certain tax-exempt organizations from electioneering.
The ban on politicking does not apply to individual religious leaders speaking only for themselves, but just 43 percent of respondents in the LifeWay Research poll believe it is a good idea for pastors to endorse candidates for public office outside their church role.