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Pastor on list says he didn't participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday

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The only South Dakota pastor listed by the Alliance Defense Fund as a participant in its Pulpit Freedom Sunday initiative said Monday that he didn’t talk about candidates from the pulpit last weekend.

“I am one of their Pulpit Freedom pastors, and I have spoken forthright on ... candidates in the past,” said Steve Hickey, pastor of the Church at the Gate in Sioux Falls. Hickey had his own brief career as a political candidate earlier this year when he announced he would seek the Republican nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives. Hickey dropped out of the race within days of state Rep. Kristi Noem’s announcement of her candidacy. 

Hickey supports ADF attempts to challenge the Johnson Amendment, a 1954 federal law that imposes limitations on the political speech of churches and other nonprofit organizations.

Despite his participation in the 2008 ADF effort and his interest in provoking a court challenge to the Johnson amendment, Hickey said he didn’t “follow the pack” this year. “I preach the Bible on the weekend, and I didn’t have a sense I should do it this Sunday,” he said. 

The ADF’s website erroneously listed Hickey as one of about 100 pastors nationwide to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday. He doesn’t know of any pastors in the state who joined the initiative.

The Rev. H. Wayne Williams of Rapid City spoke on behalf of Republican gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Gordon Howie, R-Rapid City, from his pulpit in May but did not participate in Sunday’s event.

Hickey’s church has not had any contact with the IRS to date, even though he has spoken about specific candidates in the past. “The IRS is a paper tiger on this deal,” he said. “We hope to get them into court on this issue because the constitution trumps tax law.”


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