Wednesday, May 13, 2009

IRS Ruling Ensures Clergy Freedom to Preach on Election Matters

"The IRS has unequivocally affirmed the right of pastors nationwide to come together as spokesmen for the Word of God, to interact with political leaders, historians and scholars in discussing the moral issues under debate within our culture and to assert their biblical responsibility to address such issues from their pulpits."

-- From "IRS says pastors who backed Perry didn't break law with closed-door conferences" by Wayne Slater, The Dallas Morning News 5/13/09

The Internal Revenue Service has ruled that a foundation funded by financial backers of [Texas] Gov. Rick Perry did not violate the law by mobilizing evangelical Christians in advance of his 2006 re-election.

The IRS ruled that church congregations were "told to vote their values," but not for a specific candidate.

"This liberal attempt to intimidate pastors has backfired," said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel of Liberty Legal Institute, which represented event organizers. "Not only do pastors and churches have freedom, but now they know about it."

Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network, a group that advocates on church-state issues and filed the complaint, said the ruling will "further embolden wealthy special interests who funnel campaign money through nonprofits that want to drag churches into partisan campaigns."

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Pastors win challenge to political involvement" by Drew Zahn © 2009 WorldNetDaily 5/12/09

In a decision that holds ramifications for churches around the country, the Internal Revenue Service found that a non-profit organization that gathered pastors to a series of public policy conferences did not violate the political entanglement laws governing its tax-exempt status.

Prompted by a complaint filed by the Texas Freedom Network, which calls itself "a mainstream voice to counter the religious right," the IRS investigated the Houston-based Niemoller Foundation for organizing during the 2006 election season six pastors briefings, which included speeches from prominent politicians and training for pastors on urging and registering their congregations to vote.

Despite charges that the foundation had therefore engaged in political partisan activity in violation of its tax exempt status, the IRS investigation found "no evidence of political intervention."

. . . said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel of Liberty Legal Institute, which represented event organizers: "There is now a clear IRS statement outlining these pastors' events and approving them as valid under the law."

Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for the Institute, further explained to WND the ramifications the ruling holds for churches.

"The Niemoller Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization, just like a church," Sasser explained. "So by the Niemoller activities being granted as lawful, then any church that engages in the same kind of voter education combined with voter registration drives on the moral issues of the day is perfectly fine with the IRS regulations, according to the IRS itself."

Sasser reiterated, "The whole point was to educate everyone about the important social issues and get them to go vote and register others to vote, and the IRS said this was perfectly okay."

"Be careful what you hear from these liberal organizations," Shackelford said in a statement.

"They sound very confident and file many complaints, yet none are found valid even by the IRS."

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

Also, read this related article from 2008.

If people tell you that churches can "get in trouble" with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) non-profit for speaking up during election periods, please share the following by Mathew D. Staver, Esq. of Liberty Counsel:

". . . from 1954 to the present, no church has ever lost its tax-exempt status for endorsing or opposing political candidates. This history alone should alleviate unfounded fear."

Churches may also distribute objective voter guides that address the candidates’ views on a broad range of issues.

Pastors can preach on biblical, moral and social issues such as homosexuality and abortion. Pastors can urge the congregation to become involved in the political process, urge them to register and vote.

In summary, while liberal groups seek to silence pastors and churches, I would encourage pastors to throw off their muzzle and pick up a megaphone. It’s time pastors and churches became the moral conscience of the community.