Faith 2016 News

Americans view pastors’ political endorsements as ‘inappropriate’

Graphic courtesy of LifeWay Research.

(RNS) Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has said his pledge to let churches and other religious institutions endorse political candidates without losing their tax-exempt status is “my greatest contribution to Christianity and other religions.”

And the Republican Party has made the repeal of the Johnson Amendment, the statute that prohibits it, part of its platform.

But Americans overwhelmingly view pastors making endorsements from the pulpit as inappropriate.

About 8 in 10 Americans (79 percent) say it is inappropriate for pastors to endorse a political candidate during a church service, according to a 2015 phone survey by LifeWay Research published Thursday (Sept. 8).

“Americans already argue about politics enough outside the church. They don’t want pastors bringing those arguments into worship,” LifeWay Research Executive Director Scott McConnell said in a written statement.


RELATED: Trump throws social conservatives a bone


 

That number has dropped slightly since 2008, when 86 percent of Americans told the Nashville-based, evangelical research firm they believed such endorsements were inappropriate.

Those who self-identify as evangelical (27 percent) or express evangelical beliefs (25 percent) are slightly more likely to view endorsements from the pulpit as appropriate, compared with Protestants as a whole (20 percent), Catholics (13 percent), those who belong to other religions besides Christianity (18 percent) and those with no religious preference (21 percent), according to the survey. A previously released survey showed most churchgoers have heard politics preached from the pulpit, though few had heard a preacher specifically endorse or oppose a candidate.

Still, 43 percent of Americans say they strongly or somewhat believe it is appropriate for pastors to endorse political candidates outside their church role – a drop from 54 percent in 2008, according to LifeWay. And 52 percent do not believe a church should lose its tax-exempt status for endorsing a candidate.

The survey of 1,000 Americans was conducted by phone Sept. 14-28, 2015.  The sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.6 percentage points, according to LifeWay, though margins of error are higher in subgroups.

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About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

34 Comments

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  • A bill Lyndon Johnson sponsored in the 1960s would remove a church’s tax exempt status if a minister/church endorsed a political candidate. It hasn’t been enforced. I’m glad the overwhelming majority today support that position. Jesus preached that his kingdom was not part of the world and a Christian’s obligation to the secular authorities was to render Caesar’s things to Caesar and God’s things to God. His kingdom was a heavenly kingdom.

  • Normally, you and I find little to agree upon, but I have come rather lately to the position that political endorsements from the pulpit are not a proper subject to be included in a religious service.

  • Johnson put forth the bill after being excoriated by a Methodist pastor for his dead person voter fraud while running for the Senate.

  • The majority don’t want me preaching about sin and repentance either. God has blessed Christians with the ability to vote and influence public policy for the common good. As a leader and shepherd, it is my responsibility to help them fulfill that role. To remain silent is to fail both God and them. Perhaps if we had been less willing to go along with an obviously unconstitutional law, our poor country would not be as divided and broken as it appears to be and we would not now be having to choose between “Ahab” and “Jezebel” to be our next leader.

  • Is preventing pastors from making political endorsements on the slippery slope to preventing bloggers from airing their evangelical beliefs along with their political views?

  • “God has blessed Christians with the ability to vote and influence public policy for the common good.”

    Then, why did it take God so many thousands of years to finally allow Christians to live in societies where they could “vote and influence public policy for the common good?”

    “As a leader and shepherd, it is my responsibility to help them fulfill that role. To remain silent is to fail both God and them.”

    So, you apparently don’t think that Christians are qualified to “vote and influence public
    policy for the common good” without your guidance. It looks like you have your gullible flock exactly where you want them.

    ” . . . an obviously unconstitutional law . . .”

    As many Christians do, you seem to be disingenuously implying that churches have been singled out by the tax-exemption law regarding endorsement of political candidates, when, in fact, the law applies to a multitude of non-profit organizations. But, the reality is that this law has so many loopholes in it that it is virtually toothless. The fact that preachers (and others) are permitted under the law to endorse positions on issues is probably the major loophole which, in effect, gives them the ability to endorse candidates.

    If you bought some Swiss cheese with as many holes in it as that law has, the package would contain nothing but air that merely smells like Swiss cheese.

  • I am a Christian pastor, and I trust my parishioners to make their own political decisions, as God leads them. If I do my job correctly, I am teaching them to seek God’s presence and God’s guidance in their lives. I trust that God’s spirit can lead them to make wise decisions. (I think God is wiser than I am).

  • “Trump has said his pledge to let churches and other religious institutions endorse political candidates without losing their tax-exempt status is ‘my greatest contribution to Christianity and other religions.’ ”

    Thats just funny. Probably unintentionally so, but it’s really funny.

  • Thanks be to god your poor, ignorant congregation has one as great and wise as you to tell them how to complete their election ballots. Thank you Jeeeeebus!

  • Pointless anyway. Voting for a candidate is a decorative act with no consequence. All politicians end up serving the Deep State no matter what they say. Voting for or against a referendum may have a temporary consequence for a few days or weeks until the Deep State’s “judges” overturn the referendum.

  • In other words, another shepherd of the sheeple who knows exactly how God would be voting, if only he were a citizen, or at least, a republican.

  • Okay, so I dare you to walk into any church of the National Baptist Convention – USA (you know, the black Baptists who indirectly but clearly endorsed HILLARY CLINTON by acclamation at their main Kansas City convention last week), and I dare you to say that very same paragraph, word for word, out loud to one of THEIR pastors and congregations during the Sunday Morning service.

    Go ahead — walk on in there this very Sunday, and say that very same comment to them, word for word. Try it, and tell us all the juicy religious results thereof !!

  • I’m not talking about “any church of the National Baptist Convention.” I’m sarcastically talking about that one, particular rev, Mr. Collier. Pay attention Floyd.

  • I think not, the point about pastors is that politics is not their proper sphere. They should have some confidence in their congregants to make appropriate voter choices if the pastors themselves have done their job. The issue of other free speech issues is a battle for another day.

  • African-American churches have been doing this for decades. (Remember, more recently, The Reverend Jeremiah Wrong?) Never heard a peep from the media opposing it then.

  • What’s your point? Please speak clearly.
    Besides, how do you know that God sent the floods in Louisiana?

  • Be have he was punishing them For their sins, of course. Because he is omnipotent, and responsible for everything.

    Or so religionists keep telling me.

  • I don’t know, just a gentle admonition, I thought I detected a subtle jab in your comment. I think adventtruth, as well as you and I recognize there are charlatans in sheep’s clothing.

  • You were correct, of course. I would suspect that you are as tired of the “I’m a true Christian, but you aren’t” Meme as I am.

  • Well, I get your point, but at the same time I feel an obligation based on the teaching of the New Testament to contend with others whose interpretation of the scriptures conflicts with the classically understood orthodox teaching of the Church. That has been a challenge from the very beginning. There are certain views and sects among putative Christians that I would place outside the Pale, that said I try not to make that the focus of my exchanges, except when a specific theological point is in question. Even in theological conflict my aim is to achieve greater understanding, not condemnation. As to being tired, yes I am, I long for Jesus’ Return and the end of this present world. But I will endure as long as I can, and as graciously as I can. I know that with respect to the future and the destiny of humanity we are not really in accord, but that is no reason to not have a healthy intellectual exchange.

  • Your not wagging your finger in self righteousness when you disagree on a theological difference. That’s the difference between you and them, which is really the difference Between respect and contempt.

    As for the rest, unless you are in very poor health– I just left an elderly friend of mine who is dying by inches, and he’s on his last foot– I’d say, Stick around. Enjoy yourself. Do that which gives you meaning and joy.

    We disagree on things, and are as you so delicately out it, not in accord. But whether Jesus returns next week, or never, is not really relevant. He’s not here now. For myself, I want to extract as much happiness, joy, meaning, what have you, out of the life I have. Jesus will get here when he gets here. The big question is, as it always is in so many ways, “what are you going to do NOW?”

  • Now is certainly important; if I may add a witticism, “Don’t shoot the piano player, he’s doing the best he can.”

  • It really bodes badly for people who want to repeal an already watered down, barely enforced measure meant to keep churches from abusing their position for political purposes.

  • Oh, but I **am** paying attention. You’re apparently VERY okay with what “Mr. Collier” is doing, as long as “Mr. Collier” is black and wide-openly supporting Hillary Clinton at the national level, under the banner of the black church denominations like the NBC-USA Church and the AME Church.

    Disprove please?

  • Amen, Brother! BOTH sides should get the heck outta politicas and return to their main mission of tending the spiritual and temporal needs of their communities instead of looking to government to do it for them. Government has no spirit with which to minister love to those in need. They’re just a bunch of dreary bureaucrats dispensing entitlements.

  • I don’t see where I said I approve. Don’t just make stuff up Floyd. A church can rent out its space to a political group for a meeting, but I disagree with any church allowing political speech from the pulpit as part of a worship service. I don’t like it any other time, but I can abide it.

    Now, like I said, pay attention Floyd and stop making stuff up.

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