Can the Government Veto a Sermon?

Friends,

Lots happening this weekend… It’s Respect Life Sunday (and we have resources at ProLifePreaching.com), it’s Life Chain Sunday (and I’ll be participating in one in Detroit… I hope all the Life Chain organizers are ready to collect names, numbers, and emails of the participants to help engage them throughout the year!), it’s the opening of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization (Priests for Life was pleased to send input to the synod on the connections between new evangelization and the pro-life movement) – but what I want to focus on for a moment here is that it is also “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.”

Here’s the question: May the government filter, edit, or veto the contents of a sermon?  No court has ever heard a case regarding whether the Internal Revenue Service can do so. Yet every day – and especially in these weeks prior to an election – preachers act as if their sermons have to be vetted and approved by the IRS.

Indeed, the IRS issues guidelines saying that in order to retain its tax exemption, Churches and other organizations set up as “501 (c)(3)” entities must avoid any intervention in a political campaign.

But this restriction is not in the Constitution. In fact, it only goes back to 1954, to a provision that has no legislative history and has never been challenged in court.

And the result of the restriction, and the ambiguity often surrounding it (because the IRS says that all the “facts and circumstances” have to be taken into account to determine exactly when a preacher has “crossed the line,” therefore meaning in practice that you may not know that you’ve crossed the line until after the fact), what in fact happens is that speech is chilled and pastors do far less than they are able to do.

Since 2008, therefore, pastors across the nation have begun to rise up with a simple message: No government interference in the pulpit! They have decided, on a designated weekend, to preach sermons outside the usual restrictions of the IRS, and have sent those sermons to the IRS. The hope is that this will lead to a court case that can clarify whether the restrictions are in fact even constitutional.

In 2008, some 33 pastors did this. The IRS did not respond.

In 2009, some 84 pastors did this. Again, only silence from the IRS.

In 2010, a hundred pastors engaged in this project. The IRS raised no complaint.

Last year, 539 pastors sent in their sermons challenging the IRS restrictions. And nothing but silence came from the IRS.

This year’s numbers will surpass all the previous years.

It seems clear that the IRS does not want the 1954 restrictions subjected to court scrutiny. We will report more of what happens as a result of this Pulpit Freedom Sunday. Stay tuned!

Fr. Frank

 

 

Today’s Pro-Life Reflection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This reflection is taken from my book Pro-Life Reflections for Every Day, which is available for purchase at: ProLifeReflectionsForEveryDay.org.

“You will show me the path to life; you will fill me with joy in your presence” (Psalm 16:11).

Reflection: Many men and women who have lost children to abortion are speaking publicly about their sin and forgiveness through the Silent No More Awareness Campaign (a project of Priests for Life and Anglicans for Life). This campaign shows the harm abortion does, leads people to healing, and reveals the power and mercy of Christ. There is no reason to be locked in sin, shame, and silence.

Prayer: Lord, bless all the men and women who are speaking out about their abortion experiences. Thank you for their courage. Amen.

Fr. Pavone: Nellie Gray was “a tireless warrior for the unborn”

Fr. Frank & Nellie Gray at the 2012 March for Life

Miss Nellie Gray, Founder of the March for Life, has died.“Nellie Gray and the March for Life had a most profound effect on my life,” said Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life. In 1976, when he was a senior in high school, Father Pavone went to the March for Life with his mother and grandmother. Although he had been quietly considering the priesthood before that, the March cemented both his vocation and his passion for pro-life issues.

“Every year since 1974, Nellie Gray has mobilized a diverse and energetic army for life,” said Father Pavone, who has attended every march since his first one. “Her own commitment to the cause never wavered. She was a tireless warrior for the unborn and her motto was ‘no exceptions.’ “

After his ordination in 1988, Father Pavone was assigned to a parish in Staten Island, NY. Every year he led a busload of parishioners to the March for Life. He took over as national director of Priests for Life in 1993, and the following year, attending the event in his new capacity, Miss Gray invited him to say the opening prayer at the March for Life Convention that annually precedes the March.

In 2008, the National Pro-Life Religious Council, which Father Pavone serves as president, presented Miss Gray with its Pro-Life Recognition Award. Later that day, Miss Gray tripped and fell on the stage at the opening rally for the March and had to be taken to the hospital with a head injury.

“As a colleague in national pro-life leadership, Nellie was always an inspiration to the rest of us,” Father Pavone said. “Her devotion was on display that same year, 2008, when, despite being in the hospital during the March for Life, she nevertheless was present at all all-day meeting of national leaders the very next morning, with a patch on her head.”

Every year since its founding in 2003, Miss Gray invited the women of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign to stand on the rally stage holding signs that said, “I Regret My Abortion,” and she arranged for a larger group of post-abortive men and women from Silent No More to be in the vanguard of the March.

Dee Becker, Nellie, Georgette & Janet

“We are so grateful that Nellie Gray shared our vision of Silent No More, and recognized that the women who have had abortions speak with unquestioned authority about the ways they have been harmed by this choice,” said Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life and co-founder of Silent No More. “Every year more women and men come to march and to share their testimony. Nellie Gray helped make that possible for us.”

Miss Gray is also credited for realizing that African-American pro-life leaders had to become more vocal and visible in the fight for life.

“Nellie Gray knew that abortion took a heavy toll from the black community and she urged us to lend our voices to the fight against this terrible injustice,” said Dr. Alveda King, director of African-American Outreach for Priests for Life. “She was a visionary.”

Bryan Kemper, founder of Stand True Ministry and director of Youth Outreach for Priests for Life, said: “My heart is broken by the loss of Nellie Gray, a true pro-life hero and role model. At the same time I celebrate that Nellie is with our Lord who she loved so dearly. I have had the honor of working with Nellie for years and every time I March in DC in January, I know she will be watching over us and praying for us. Nellie Gray, I will miss you dearly.

The 2013 March for Life will mark the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, and the 39th anniversary of the March.

“It was an anniversary that broke Nellie Gray’s heart every year, and every day,” Father Pavone noted. “In January we will march in her memory, in her honor, to save the unborn children to whom she dedicated her life.”

To offer your spiritual bouquet, your promise of prayers and to share your memories of Nellie go to http://www.priestsforlife.org/data/prayer_request.aspx.

Baby Cries in the Womb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although we know that babies delivered prematurely cry, researchers are still learning about how babies cry in the womb. Recent research in New Zealand revealed evidence of crying patterns in the unborn child at 28 weeks into pregnancy. Video footage was made of the baby crying in response to loud noise that made the child uncomfortable. Professor Ed Mitchell said the following to the London Sun newspaper: “It was strikingly like an infant crying. Even the bottom lip quivers.”

This evidence is part of a growing body of research that reveals the unborn child as much more similar to the born child than many imagine. Other studies have shown how these babies learn sounds that they hear while in the womb. As the unborn become more visible, may their rights be more recognized.

Today’s Pro-Life Reflection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This reflection is taken from my book Pro-Life Reflections for Every Day, which is available for purchase at: ProLifeReflectionsForEveryDay.org

“The people of Judah have done evil in my eyes, declares the Lord … They have built the high places … to burn their sons and daughters in the fire” (Jeremiah 7:30-31).

Reflection:  A woman who saw the photos of aborted babies on the Priests for Life website wrote to us. “Let me state first that I am rarely if ever speechless, I am very outspoken and speak what I feel. The abortion images are jolting, and will haunt me the rest of my life. … I will never be silent about this matter again.”

Prayer: Jolt us, Lord; awaken us, and preserve us from sin. Amen.

PFL Youth Outreach Director at Center of First Amendment Lawsuit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Priests for Life Youth Outreach Director Bryan Kemper is a plaintiff in a new First Amendment lawsuit filed against Sinclair Community College in Ohio and its campus police.

On June 8, Kemper, the founder of Stand True Ministry, was a speaker at the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally at the college. The rally was one of 100 such rallies taking place across the country that day to protest the Obama administration’s mandate that all employers have to provide free contraception, abortifacient drugs and sterilization services for their workers.

Campus police would not allow demonstrators to hold their signs at the rally, continuing a tradition of First Amendment violations that, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), has been going on at the school for 22 years.

“Schools are meant for the free expression of ideas, but Sinclair has taken the stance that its students must check their free speech rights at the door,” said Peter Breen executive director and legal counsel of the Thomas More Society, which filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on behalf of two Sinclair students and Kemper.

“It is imperative that we fight for our rights to not be taken away or it will be almost impossible to fight to get them back,” Kemper said. “I am fighting this injustice not just for me, but for my son Jaemison, who was there watching the rights of so many being trampled.

“ Jaemison may only be 7 years old,” Kemper continued, “but he and his and his siblings will someday face a situation when their rights and liberties may be challenged.  I want him to have the courage and the means to stand true when that day comes and to know that his father refused to cower in the face of adversity.”

Priests for Life organized the well-attended New York City Stand Up Rally, at which attendees, like those all over the country, were able to express themselves with signs and placards. Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, said of the Ohio situation:

“Thank you, Sinclair Community College and police department. There are few better ways to motivate pro-life people than to tell them to shut up. I’m not sure if it’s our message or the First Amendment that you don’t fully understand, but we’re going to see to it that you learn more about both.”

To view the lawsuit, go to http://scr.bi/MaypVf

Priests for Life is the nation’s largest Catholic pro-life organization dedicated to ending abortion and euthanasia. For more information, visit www.priestsforlife.org.

Today’s Pro-Life Reflection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This reflection is taken from my book Pro-Life Reflections for Every Day, which is available for purchase at: ProLifeReflectionsForEveryDay.org

“God intended it for good to accomplish … the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20)

Reflection: One of the simplest ways to stop abortions is to go to the facilities where the abortions happen and talk to the women who are walking in. This is called “sidewalk counseling.” It is legal in every state, and has saved countless lives. Training is available from pro-life organizations.

Prayer: Lord, I Pray today for all sidewalk counselors who are pleading for the lives of the unborn. Gibe them grace and wisdom, patience and perseverance. Save many lives and souls through their loving intervention, and call many others to join their ranks. Amen.

Today’s Pro-Life Reflection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This reflection is taken from my book Pro-Life Reflections for Every Day, which is available for purchase at: ProLifeReflectionsForEveryDay.org

“Your light must shine so that it can be seen by others” (Matthew 5:16)

Reflection: A preacher once wrote that there is no such thing as secret discipleship. Either the discipleship will destroy the secrecy, or the secrecy will destroy the discipleship. That’s why being pro-life cannot just be a personal, private conviction. If it’s in our heart, it needs to be on our lips and in our actions.

Prayer: Praise to you, Lord God, for you open my mouth in worship and in witness; you reveal my faith through my actions. May I never try to be a secret disciple, but rather be proud to be known as one of yours. Amen.

Exposing the Truth

We received the following email from someone who visited our web site and saw the pictures of aborted babies. She wrote:

I just wanted to say that I accidentally viewed your web site. Let me tell you that I had once strongly believed in pro-choice, but after reviewing this web site, I am all for Pro-Life. I just recently found out that I am 5wks pregnant…. I can not imagine me doing this to my baby. I had an abortion about 2yrs. ago and that was the hardest decision I had to make. I did not want to do it. I cried and mourned for my child for a long time..

Invite others to view these images at priestsforlife.org. You may email and print them. Nothing is more effective to end abortion.

Using Images to Combat Rhetoric

Today I want to share with you the following e-mail I received from a pro-abortion person who visited the Priests for Life web site and saw the pictures of aborted babies. She wrote:

“I thought that you would like to know that you have changed the mind of at least one person with your web site, me.  Although I have never had an abortion myself, I have always thought that it should be a woman’s right to do what she wanted to her body.  Today I stand corrected.  Thank you for showing me the truth.  I will pray for success in your fight against abortion, and for all the children who die every day.”  

Invite others to view these images at priestsforlife.org.  You may e-mail and print them. Nothing is more effective to end abortion.