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Nearly 90 percent of pastors believe they should not endorse candidates for public office from the pulpit, according to a recent survey by LifeWay Research. The survey also revealed that 44 percent of pastors personally endorsed candidates, but did so outside of their church role.

The survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors found that only 10 percent believe pastors should endorse candidates from the pulpit. Eighty-seven percent believe (71 percent strongly and 16 percent somewhat) pastors should not endorse candidates for public office from the pulpit. Three percent of pastors are not sure.

For comparison, LifeWay Research found in a December 2010 survey that 84 percent of pastors said they should not endorse candidates from the pulpit.

Differences emerged between pastors who consider themselves "evangelical" and those who self-identify as "mainline." Eighty-six percent of evangelical pastors believe pastors should not endorse a candidate from the pulpit, as compared to 91 percent of mainline pastors.

The number of pastors who say they should not endorse candidates from the pulpit also varies according to political affiliation. Among pastors who call themselves Democrats, 98 percent believe political endorsements should not be made from the pulpit compared to 90 percent of Independents and 82 percent of Republicans.

Regional comparisons show that pastors of churches in the Midwest (91 percent) are the most likely to say pastors should not endorse candidates from the pulpit. This is significantly different from pastors in the South (84 percent) while pastors in the Northeast and West (both 89 percent) are in between.

The results of the survey come just prior to the Alliance Defending Freedom "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" on Oct. 7. The alliance has encouraged pastors to challenge the IRS ban on political endorsements from the pulpit by preaching politics and recommending candidates one month prior to the presidential election.

An amendment to the IRS tax code in 1954 prohibits tax-exempt organizations, such as churches, from endorsing political candidates for public office. According to the IRS, "violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise tax."

The Alliance Defending Freedom believes the law violates the First Amendment. In order to challenge the law in court, it first has to be applied to a particular church or pastor. The group has encouraged pastors to talk about candidates and make specific recommendations on Oct. 7. The sermons are to be recorded and sent to the IRS.

"Previous research has shown that pastors believe the government has no place in determining what is and is not said from their pulpits regarding candidates," McConnell said. "Yet most pastors don't believe endorsement of candidates should be made from the pulpit."

Endorsements Outside the Pulpit

The LifeWay Research survey also found that less than half of Protestant pastors (44 percent) personally endorsed candidates this year outside of their church role. Fifty-two percent say they disagree with the statement, "I personally endorsed candidates for public office this year, but only outside of my church role."

McConnell noted that only one-third of pastors strongly disagree that they have endorsed candidates outside of their church role.

"Clearly most pastors have opinions on who the best candidates are, and those convictions may be heavily dependent on biblical principles," McConnell said. "However, very few pastors choose to make those endorsements from the pulpit."

Pastors of churches with less than 50 members are the most likely at 56 percent to say they had personally endorsed candidates for public office outside of their church role.

Pastors in small cities (49 percent) are more likely to say they had endorsed candidates outside of their church role than pastors in large cities (33 percent).

While there are no differences between evangelicals and mainline pastors, differences emerged among party affiliation. Self-described Independents (34 percent) are least likely to say they endorsed candidates outside their church role compared to Republicans (51 percent) and Democrats (54 percent).

Current Presidential Campaign

While there has been much talk about the beliefs of both presidential candidates during the current campaign, few pastors believe there has been too much focus on religion.

The survey revealed only 17 percent of pastors believe the election cycle has been too religious compared to 77 percent who say it has not been too religious and 5 percent who are not sure.

"Pastors do not see the election as a referendum on religion in the U.S.," McConnell said. "In fact, very few pastors believe this election cycle has been very religious at all."

Party affiliations again reveal differences in opinion on this issue. Among pastors who call themselves Republican, only 9 percent believe the election cycle has been too religious, as compared to 20 percent of Independents and 39 percent of Democrats.

Also, mainline pastors at 22 percent are more likely to believe the election cycle has been too religious, compared to 14 percent of evangelical pastors.

Carol Pipes is the editorial manager for LifeWay Christian Resources' corporate communications team.

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John Wooden

commented on Nov 5, 2012

Maybe you don't endorse a candidate - but you best be reminding the people that by their vote they are either voting for or against abortion, gay marriage, homosexual agenda, backing Israel, supreme court justice appointments. It's very clear cut division this year as to who is for or against these issues. I believe we will be held accountable for the way we vote. We are to be salt and light - that best show up in the way we vote as well.

Kevin Wilson

commented on Nov 5, 2012

That's because they are cowards; especially in this election. If you can't take a position on partial-birth abortion, the biblical definition of marriage, religious freedom,etc. what on earth are you doing in a pulpit?

David Nuhfer

commented on Nov 5, 2012

If it takes endorsing a candidate for the people of the church you pastor to know where you stand on issues, perhaps you ought to take a look at what you have been preaching.

Jeff Glenn

commented on Nov 5, 2012

Good article!

Robert Tarasiak

commented on Nov 5, 2012

Pastors need to take a stand! As a pastor I endorse Romney, not in his false religion he is part of Mormonism, but separating Spiritual with secular. Sadly preachers and pastors today have no back one! Just do a key word search of the "Black Robe Regiment" They were the first ones to take up arms and lead their congregations to fight the British during the fight for independence. The IRS has NO authority in the Church, Go and preach and endorse those who are going to better our nation.

Adrien Thorne

commented on Nov 5, 2012

You share these stats as if we should be proud of them. The truth is, no church in the US since 1954 has ever lost their non-profit status as the result of endorsing a candidate. A Church called Pierce Creek in Bighamton, NY., Opposed Clinton and lost their non for profit status letter but because they are a church they could not lose their non-profit status because they are a church. The fact is that we have much more liberty than most know, and the fact that pastors do not voice a more clear position, in my opinion is nothing more than good ol' American/Evagelical cowardice...just my opinion.

Ralph M

commented on Nov 5, 2012

(Ralph) Video link of Pastor Jeremiah, who feel uneasy talking about politics, as he states, but feels God is giving us a clear warning, as He does with the 'lukewarm'... ( http://vimeo.commoogaloop.swf?clip_id=51960767 ) Sermon starts at around 40:00. Remember, this makes him uncomfortable, but needing to be heard by Gods chosen, to reflect Him in our lives, and nation. In the aforementioned speech the good pastor Jeremiah readily admits that we should have Christian leaders for our nation- " A man who fears God as he puts it." Most Christians would agree not only with the premise but also with Pastor Jeremiah's unfortunate ( and correct ) assessment of the two candidates in which he says in essence that "neither one of the two elect able candidates exhibit god fearing characteristics" Now Pastor David Jeremiah is by no means the sole arbiter on the matter but he is in a position where he can announce the obvious, evidenced by the walk of both Presidential candidates. The hope of this nation and for that matter the world rests not on a Democrat or Republican but on the church and ultimately on the will of God. We as Americans take a great deal of pride in our liberties and freedoms of which the bible says "where the spirit of the lord is.. there you will find liberty." We have long since taken God out of our schools, out of our culture, and if you're looking real close, out of the American church. With this election we will now have God officially removed from our national leadership. One has to wonder how many thumbs in the eye God has to take before he gets' the hint? We get it. God is a patient god but as well a just god and he has set up spiritual laws as well as physical laws. He cannot and will not break either regardless of his desire to do otherwise or our pleadings for same. We hear a lot about prayer of late and especially on this election eve. Be assured that God does hear our prayers especially those of the just but he is also aware that as men we firmly believe we don't need His help with the details...after all we're not looking for a pastor in chief, right? The same God that guarantees us our liberties is as well the same God that assures us that if we humble ourselves (as a nation) seek God's guidance, and then start showing some behavior modifications, He will save us from ourselves.

Bill Williams

commented on Nov 5, 2012

I expressed my thoughts on this issue comprehensively in the comments under the article Why We Avoid Political Preaching. I won't rehash all of that here. Andrew Shields and Brian William also posted comments that I feel summarized my thoughts much more clearly and succinctly that I was able to. And several comments under yesterday's article also spoke favorably in support of the position of not endorsing a candidate from the pulpit. After pretty much being ganged up against when I expressed my original comments, it's nice to be able to see, especially from this article and from comments in support, that I'm not the only one who feels this way! And after being repeatedly accused of having positions that were on the "fringe" of Christianity, this reaffirms my belief that perhaps Christianity is much larger than the small bubble some people inhabit! So, even though I am not pastor nor a preacher, I feel an obligation to speak up in defense of the overwhelming majority of pastors who remember that the kingdom of Christ is not of this world. @Kevin and Adrien, who accused these pastors of being cowards, and @Robert, who accused them of not having a "backbone" (I'm assuming you meant that, and not "back one"), and anyone else who will chime in afterwards with similar comments: I think your accusations have been gross and unfair generalizations. I doubt any of you know even one of these pastors who were surveyed, much less a significant amount of them to be able to make such confident assertions. You may be entitled to your "opinion," but I'm also entitled to point out that you have no legitimate basis whatsoever on which to pass your judgements. If you feel convicted to endorse a specific candidate from the pulpit, then by all means go ahead. I personally don't agree with such a position, but I have never suggested a person should go against their conscience. So, why should YOU judge another preacher for following their OWN conscience, and not yours? I believe they are entitled to more respect than that.

Bill Williams

commented on Nov 5, 2012

One more thought, I plan on voting tomorrow. I will be casting my vote for Romney, and I say that only lest some people think I'm some sort of "godless liberal", seeing as how the words "liberal" and "Christian" are so often treated as antonyms on this site. Having said that, I know plenty of people at my church who are planning on voting for Obama. And I will continue to consider these people my brothers and sisters in Christ, as they will do likewise for me. Because whatever political differences we may have, we share something that is INFINITELY more important: we are citizens of a kingdom that is NOT of this world. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God, and Jesus Christ alone is our Lord. And that will always be more important to us than who we vote for President. Blessings to each of you here. And remember, no matter who wins tomorrow, do not be discouraged! For God will still be on his throne!

Stan Roam

commented on Nov 5, 2012

This is the reason why the "church" has lost its way. We do not have men of God, speaking Word of God! The Bible will determine your world view and the way you vote. The two platforms are directly opposite to one another and I vote and lead the people to vote for primarily for (some races are a toss up)Republicans. Are all politicians completely on the same page as their party? No! They can decide for themselves on that, but I will vote for the party the says homosexuality is wrong (sin, oh can we say that any more?) abortion is wrong! Taking from one class of people for the sake of another while they line their pocket (personal lavish lifestyles) with some of the money, power and control, determined by godless leaders is wrong. GOD HELP US PASTORS' WHO WILL NOT SPEAK YOUR WORD LOUD AND CLEAR. The nation of Israel and Judah come to mind-and their fall because they bowed to wrong cultures, false leaders and many were killed and others were taken captive as a judgment by God. Yes, we went over the candidates and local ballot measures and why we as Christians should vote a certain way, but it is still their choice.

Ralph M

commented on Nov 5, 2012

Great video:

Bert Fulford

commented on Nov 5, 2012

It is inconceivable that pastors would not take a strong stand in this election either by public endorsements or by stating the obvious differences in the parties. Kevin in the 2nd comment said it right even if it offends you....

Bill Williams

commented on Nov 5, 2012

@Bert, whether or not Kevin offends one is irrelevant. The simple, indisputable fact is that unless Kevin was personally involved in surveying these pastors and/or has access to the raw data, as well as training in how to interpret the data, he has no legitimate basis on which to assert that the 90 percent of the pastors in this survey who believe that they should not endorse specific candidates for public office from the pulpit do so because they are cowards. It is an opinion, based--at best--on anecdotal evidence and gut feeling. MY opinion is that his is unfair. You may disagree, and you certainly have the right to do so. When it comes to opinions, there is a lot of latitutde. But what you can't do is say his opinion is right, because he simply does provide enough evidence to prove that he is right. Furthermore, it is wrong to assume that choosing not to endorse a specific candidate for office is the same as choosing not to take a stand for Biblical principles. On the contrary, a pastor who chooses not to endorse a specific candidate, and instead chooses to endorse the uncompromising truth of Scripture alone, has the freedom and credibility to speak out against both political parties and any of their candidates or politicians when they act in violation of those principles. You cannot equate choosing not to endorse a candidate with remaining neutral--they're not the same thing.

Bill Williams

commented on Nov 5, 2012

@Bert, finally, as to the "obvious" differences between the parties, the one thing that EVERY political party has in common is that their PRIMARY objective is to advance their own political agendas. Period. And every party is more than willing to exploit Christians by telling them what they want to hear in order to get their support. But make no mistake, the primary objective of every party is to advance their own agenda, and the agenda of every party includes items that are in conflict with God's kingdom. Let me explain what I mean. Since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision in 1973, there have been four Republican presidents (Ford, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush), governing for over 20 years combined. What good has that done? None. We are nowhere near the point of overturning Roe v. Wade. Republican Presidents can't overturn it. A Republican Congress can't overturn it. The only ones who can overturn it are the Justices themselves. And while a Republican President can nominate a conservative Justice, and a Republican Senate can confirm a conservative Justice, that Justice won't always vote according to what conservatives want. Case in point: it was John Roberts, a conservative Justice nominated by Republican George W. Bush, who proved to be the deciding vote in upholding the Affordable Health Care Act, somethings that conservatives have vehemently opposed. My point is this: Republicans want to advance their own political agenda. If they can do so by telling Christians, "Hey, vote for us because we're pro-life," they will do so, even though the reality is that electing either Romney or Obama will have virtually no practical impact on reversing Roe v. Wade. Now, abortion IS an important issue, and we must do whatever we can to make sure it happens as little as possible. So, the question then is, what WILL have an impact? The preaching of God's Word from pulpits all across the nation on the value of human life, as well as working with women who are facing that difficult decision and helping work through it. God's Word is so powerful. Why are we so afraid to depend on that Word alone, applied personally to the lives of people? Why are we so eager to join forces with those who are interested in their own agendas, and not God's agenda, just because they tell us what we want to hear?

Bill Williams

commented on Nov 5, 2012

Correction on #13, I meant to write: "he simply does NOT provide enough evidence to prove that he is right."

Jason George

commented on Nov 7, 2012

This attitude is exactly why conservatives lost the White House- because they bowed down to liberal tripe that churches and organizations shouldn't get involved in politics. Even the liberals that tell us we should not be involved know better because they get involved and endorse candidates, don't they? Do you think Planned Parenthood shied away from endorsing a candidate? No. Historically, pastors and churches used to endorse candidates much more, but liberal Lyndon Johnson tried to bully pastors by using the IRS to threaten their tax exempt status in the 1960s and even though the First Amendment was designed to keep the something like this from happening by barring the the Federal Government from interfering with the free exercise of religion, many pastors cowered and caved. And so now we have many righteous who refuse to take a stand and be salt of the earth while the unrighteous take over our poor country. Shame on the pastors who didn't take a clear stand.

Bill Williams

commented on Nov 8, 2012

@Jason, there's no reason for us to rehash our discussion from earlier. But I would encourage you to re-check your history. The Johnson Amendment had nothing to do with "bullying pastors". It was directed specifically at two Texas businessmen who had opposed him through their 501(c)3s. Unfortunately, churches share that same 501(c) status, so they became casualties. I do think it is a bad law, I do think it is unconstitutional, and I do think that it should be overturned. On the other hand, it isn't really enforced in any significant way by the IRS, despite the fact that churches basically "double-dog dare" the IRS to do so in events such as Pulpit Freedom Sunday. So far, the IRS has not taken the bait, to their credit, and the end effect for all practical purposes is the same as if the law wasn't on the books. Therefore, since the law isn't really enforced, I find it hard to believe, as I told Kevin, Robert, and Adrien, that the reason these pastors do not endorse candidates is because of cowardice or because they're caving in. Maybe these pastors simply recognize that, whether or not it is illegal, endorsing candidates simply distracts from the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, which is NOT of this world, and which is ABOVE all of the kingdoms of the world. Look, I understand, your guy lost. Hey, my guy lost too! But that doesn't give you or me or anyone else the right to lash out at others for not following YOUR convictions. Let them be obedient to their own conscience, and let God alone judge their hearts. I fear you are greatly overestimating the power of the government, and greatly UNDERESTIMATING the power of God. Remember, Tuesday's results didn't take God by surprise! Before the foundation of the world, he already knew what would happen. And he already has a plan that takes Tuesday's election results into account. So, be encouraged. God still sits on his throne! Forget about "legal" or "illegal" or "bullying" or whatever. Fulfill your ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit the best that you can, where God has placed you, and trust God to take care of the rest! Blessings to you, my brother!

Ryan Neill

commented on Nov 9, 2012

Well, religion and politics, who would have thought we would have such heated feelings. :) I realize some of you may choose to discredit my opinion and thats ok but I am a firm believer in separation of church and state. I think we should vote for candidates that uphold the same Christian values that we hold dear but I also believe history has repeatedly shown us the danger of what happens when the church and the state become one (don't forget one of the main reasons why America became a nation to begin with, fleeing from religious persecution by "fellow" Christians) and for that reason I will NEVER (unless the Lord directs me otherwise) promote a candidate from my pulpit and this has nothing to do with cowardice or bullying by the IRS. I do not feel that it is my role to dictate the voting of my members. I am called to teach them the principles from the Word of God and from what it tells me "HE removes kings and raises up kings" Daniel 2:21. I can respect people's feelings about needing to endorse candidates from the pulpit but that is not how I see my role as pastor being fulfilled at all. Because his feelings almost identically match mine I will just say that I agree with what Bill Williams is saying. Sometimes you just have to agree to disagree and perhaps that's what we need to do in this situation.

John E Miller

commented on Nov 9, 2012

I have got to say as an observer from the UK, I totally agree with Bill Williams (Yes Bill, I really do!) in this matter. There is not a hint of approval or disapproval for a political stance in the New Testament. If we vote , we vote according to our own conscience. In the UK we have a conservative Prime Minister who is unprincipled, weak, pragmatic and not even respected by many, perhaps a majority of his own party. The Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Liberal Party are both professed atheists. None of these three men have any respect for the teaching or moral guidance of God's word. If you will permit me my own opinion, Obama is a closet Muslim and since Romney is not a Christian neither of these men could be depended upon to uphold the principles of the house of God. We must believe in God's sovereign universal rule. We must exalt Christ Jesus, our Lord, who will one day reign as King of kings and Lord of lords. We must learn to submit to the leading and guiding of the indwelling Spirit of God and constantly be before God in our fervent supplication that He would cause foolish men who may think they have a power of their own to submit, however unwittingly to the furtherance of His Kingdom here on earth.

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