Monday, June 23, 2008

Pastor Challenges IRS Regs Limiting Freedom of Religious Speech

Pastor Gus Booth: "If you are a Christian, you cannot support a candidate like Barack Obama."

-- From "Warroad pastor getting national attention for taking on IRS" by Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald 6/22/08

The ex-college linebacker pastor [of Warroad, MN Community Church] ignited a fire-storm of sorts this spring by picking a fight with the IRS over what he said is a violation of his constitutional rights, but more, his freedom given by God.

During a May 18 sermon, the Bemidji State University graduate told his congregation no Christian should vote for either Democratic contender for President, Sen. Hillary Clinton or Sen. Barack Obama because of their support for abortion rights and homosexual marriage. He first had invited the Warroad Pioneer to report on his sermon and it did. Booth then sent copies of the article to the IRS and to the liberal watchdog group. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

Booth says the IRS regulation on churches engaging in political talk is relatively recent, and is “trumped” by constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech and by the Bible.

“Of course, the Constitution is certainly more important than tax law,” he told the Herald. “The Constitution was around before the IRS even existed. I just feel the IRS is kind of a ‘Johnny-come-lately’ and should not tell me I have to pay for the privilege of free speech. It’s not a privilege, it’s a right.”

Booth is part of a national network of conservative evangelical pastors who plan to make a public stand on the issue Sept. 28. The Alliance Defense Fund is a religious liberty advocacy group begun in 1994 by several leaders of several Christian ministries, including Focus on the Family and Campus Crusade for Christ. Alan Sears, president and CEO, is an attorney formerly worked in the Justice Department under Republican administrations. The ADF promises to “aggressively defend religious liberty.”

He’s being counseled by ADF attorneys, but hopes news of that won’t scare off the IRS, Booth said Sunday after church.

“I want them to charge me,” he said. “My rights have been violated. I want to get that law changed.”

He’s promised his congregation he won’t let this controversy interfere too much with his pastoral duties.

But they seem to support him wholeheartedly, judging by their responses today.

To read the entire above article, CLICK HERE.

Also, CLICK HERE for coverage from another news source.