Where Wisdom Lies

Fr. Frank Pavone with Troy NewmanTroy Newman and I have worked closely together for many years as colleagues in national pro-life leadership. We have collaborated on many projects, including behind the scenes advice and encouragement on many undercover projects, including the most recent one of Planned Parenthood. Troy is completely committed to the principles at the foundation of our movement, including that of non-violence. Those who see him as an enemy do so not because he is some kind of violent fanatic, but precisely because he is effective at what he does, namely, researching the weaknesses of the abortion industry and then using the legal system to make them accountable for their unscrupulous and dangerous practices.

Troy is not being allowed in Australia not because there’s something wrong with him, but because there’s something wrong with those who are denying him entrance. And we’ve seen this pattern in other countries too. What tremendous tolerance these governments show to viewpoints and activities that might rip the mask off their mindless devotion to keeping the status quo on the greatest holocaust of human history.

Added to the completely baseless blocking of his international travel is the attempt to prevent him from traveling within the United States. That is simply outrageous, and an immediate correction and apology is needed on the part of whoever made that attempt. The Australian government, needless to say, has no jurisdiction here. Moreover, the American authorities have some explaining to do when they start limiting the movement of their own citizens. And those of us in pro-life leadership will be particularly vigilant regarding any attempt to limit our freedom because some people give too much credence to the smears and slanders that are regularly leveled against us because of our role in leading the movement against abortion. I know what those smears are like, having been the object of public protests organized by sitting government officials, leaders of Planned Parenthood, NARAL, Catholics for Choice, and other groups who have accused me of fostering violence.

But as the Lord said, time will prove where wisdom lies.

Can the Government Veto a Sermon?


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



Another First Amendment Triumph for Pro-life Movement

STATEN ISLAND, NY – Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, released the following statement today following U.S. District Court Judge William Pauley’s decision to block enforcement of a New York City law aimed at pregnancy care centers.

“Once again, the First Amendment has prevailed for pro-lifers,” Father Pavone said. “Moreover, it is again clear that the abortion industry in America is simply afraid of the pro-life movement’s ability to provide effective alternatives.

“Building on today’s decision, we will continue to promote the work of pregnancy centers and their right to speak of their work in the way they choose, not in words imposed on them by the government.”

Local Law 17 was set to take effect tomorrow. The law would have required pregnancy centers to post signs and provide specifically worded information on their services.

The judge’s decision may be read here.

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.