The original Black Robed Regiment was a group of patriotic clergy during the years of the American Revolution. The name was given to the clergy by the British because they wore black robes in their church duties as well as their courageous leadership in the patriot cause of liberty.
According to David Barton the British blamed the Black Robed Regiment for the American fight for independence, and modern-day historians agree. Alice M. Baldwin wrote: "There is not a right asserted in the Declaration of Independence which had not been discussed by the
New England clergy before 1763." Barton claims that the rights listed in the Declaration came from sermons by the clergy in the previous two decades. The British, modern historians and our Founding Fathers all credited the clergy with inspiring and supporting the fight for independence.
A modern-day movement by clergy could be likened to the Black Robed Regiment. A group of courageous pastors have designated Sunday, October 2, 2011, as Pulpit Freedom Sunday. For more than fifty years, pastors and priests have had restrictions on what they could preach from their pulpits, and clergy are claiming that the free exercise of religion depends on a free pulpit.
The Pulpit Initiative "is designed to allow pastors to speak freely from their pulpits without fear of censorship or control by the IRS. The Johnson Amendment was passed by Congress in 1954 as an amendment to section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code. The Johnson Amendment states that entities who are exempt from federal income tax cannot: Participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of - or in opposition to- any candidate for public office.
"Since its passage in 1954, the Johnson Amendment has been applied to prohibit what a pastor says from the pulpit concerning candidates who are running for elective office. This means that under current IRS regulations, a pastor cannot say anything from the pulpit that may constitute support for - or opposition to - a political candidate."
Pastors spoke freely from their pulpits for nearly 200 years since the time of our Founding Fathers. They were able to speak with boldness about the moral and social issues of the days as well as about any candidates running for office. After the Johnson Amendment, pastors and churches stopped speaking out about the problems of society and political issues for fear of losing their tax exemption. In effect, they censored themselves.
Meanwhile, activist groups used the Johnson Amendment to threaten and intimidate the churches. In response to the threats and intimidation, the Pulpit Initiative was started in 2008 with the goal of getting the Johnson Amendment declared unconstitutional and of removing the ability of the IRS to censor what is spoken from the pulpits.
Be watching on Sunday to see if and how your pastor and church leaders support the modern-day Black Robed Regiment in their fight against tyranny. In fact, if you think it may be effective, you might contact your pastor before Sunday to encourage his or her support.