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Hastings minister endorses political candidates during sermon on Sunday

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Hastings Star Gazette
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Hastings Minnesota 745 Spiral Boulevard 55033

He spoke his mind and the Rev. Brad Brandon of Berean Bible Church in Hastings is ready to do it again.

At the church's regular Sunday morning worship service, Brandon offered his political endorsements, mostly Republican and conservative, for the upcoming Nov. 2 elections.

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It is not unheard of for people to offer their endorsements - newspapers and other media are currently in the midst of doing it. However, pastors have been forbidden to do so for more than 50 years due to the Johnson Amendment of 1954 (see below).

Brandon, who is also the afternoon drive-time talk show host on AM 980 KKMS announced weeks ago he was would officially announce his political endorsements Oct. 17. He would also publish a list of the endorsed candidates. That list is now on the church's website.

Brandon also handed out lists of the endorsements to his congregation and planned to announced them on his radio show this week. All are forbidden by the IRS.

"As long at the Johnson Amendment is there, my constitutional-guaranteed freedom of speech is being infringed upon, and so are the rights of every other pastor," said Brandon. "I am exercising my free speech."

As for any apprehension the IRS will "punish" him, Brandon is quick to push it aside.

"I am sure they have my address, they know where to find me," he said. "I can't spend my life in fear ... my freedom is not for sale."

He said both all members of the clergy should be concerned as this amendment hinders every group from their protection of freedom of speech.

Brandon hopes his action, and action by other pastors who choose to endorse, will see a positive outcome.

He hopes the action will reach the United States Supreme Court, where he believes the amendment would be overturned.

"There is no way a court in their right mind can take a look at the Johnson Amendment and say that it constitutional," said Brandon.

His Republican endorsements are Tom Emmer for Minnesota governor; Dan Severson for Secretary of State; Chris Barden for Attorney General, Pat Anderson for State Auditor. Republicans endorsed for Congress are Randy Demmer, First District; John Kline, Second District; Teresa Collett, Fourth District; Michelle Bachman, Sixth District; and Lee Byberg, Seventh District.

Independent Party candidate Lynne Torgerson was endorsed for the Fifth District, and Constitution Party candidate Richard Burton was endorsed for the Eighth District.

More on the Johnson Amendment

In 1954, then Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson (who later would become president) was facing re-election. He was being aggressively being opposed by two anti-Communist groups who opposed Johnson's liberal politics. In what was viewed as retaliation, Johnson inserted language into the IRS code that prohibited nonprofits, including churches, from endorsing or opposing candidates for police office. It worked.

Johnson's amendment to the tax code affected every church in America.

There have been efforts to overturn the amendment, one as recent as 2005 when legislation was proposed, but it did not pass.

There are some organizations, including the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union, who maintain the amendment must continue to be upheld to protect church/state separation.

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Jane Lightbourn
(651) 319-4503
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