Southern Baptists pull back from ‘Free Speech’ bill

Bill would allow candidate endorsements
The Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm has withdrawn support for a bill that would allow religious institutions to endorse candidates without threatening their tax-exempt status.

The SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, once a vocal supporter of the bill, decided it could not affirm the latest version of the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act. Church-state separation advocates have voiced strong opposition in all three years the bill has appeared in the House of Representatives.

The bill (H.R. 235), sponsored by Representative Walter Jones (R., N.C.), failed a full House vote in 2002 and nearly passed as part of a larger bill last year before the controversial provision was gutted.

The most recent version sponsored by Jones does not permit political views expressed by religious leaders or congregation members to be distributed beyond those attending the service in which they are made.


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