Saturday, October 01, 2011

Pastors Defeating IRS on Freedom to Preach

After several years of pastors taking well-publicized political stances from the pulpit that are said to be unlawful, the IRS appears unwilling to press the cases, apparently fearing it will ultimately lose in the Supreme Court. Given this toothless attitude of the IRS, liberals are now consigned to simply pleading with the pastors to "do the right thing" and not guide their congregations through the political minefields.

For background, read Pastors Tell IRS: Get Out of My Pulpit and read IRS Fears Prosecuting Churches over Politics as well as IRS Gives Pass to Pastors Preaching Politics

-- From "Pastors fight IRS ban on endorsing candidates" by Bob Smietana, The Tennessean 10/1/11

The pastors are challenging an IRS ban on endorsing candidates from the pulpit, which is based on rules that forbid nonprofits from taking part in political campaigns. Preachers say the ban violates their rights to free speech and freedom of religion.

. . . 475 preachers nationwide [have] signed up for Pulpit Freedom Sunday this weekend, according to the Alliance Defense Fund [ADF], a Christian legal group based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that organized the event. Most will endorse candidates and then send their sermons to the IRS.

If the [federal tax regulating/enforcement agency, the Internal Revenue Service] IRS investigates them, the Alliance Defense Fund will sue.

“The issue of whether the IRS can censor what a pastor says in the pulpit has never been tested in court,” said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund.

The IRS has not punished any pastors involved in Pulpit Freedom events.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "The Political Pulpit" by Stephanie Strom, New York Times 9/30/11

. . . if history is any indication, the I.R.S. may continue to steer clear of the taunts.

“It’s frustrating,” said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel at Alliance Defense. “The law is on the books but they don’t enforce it, leaving churches in limbo.”

Supporters of the law are equally vexed by the tax agency’s perceived inaction. “We have grave concerns over the current inability of the I.R.S. to enforce the federal tax laws applicable to churches,” a group of 13 ministers in Ohio wrote in a letter to the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, in July.

Marcus Owens, the lawyer representing the Ohio ministers, warned that the I.R.S.’s failure to pursue churches for politicking violations would encourage more donations to support their efforts, taking further advantage of the new leeway given to advocacy groups under the Supreme Court’s decision last year in the Citizens United case.

The [I.R.S.] says it has continued to do audits of some churches, but those are not disclosed. Mr. Stanley, Mr. Owens and other lawyers say they are virtually certain it has no continuing audits of church political activity, an issue that has been a source of contention in recent elections.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Clergy warned about ‘Pulpit Freedom Sunday’" by Lynda Waddington, The Iowa Independent 9/30/11

“This is an appalling attempt by the Religious Right to turn houses of worship into house of partisan politics,” said Rev. Berry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. “Americans attend church for spiritual guidance, not to get a list of candidates to vote for on election day.”

“Church electioneering is illegal, and the people don’t support it,” Lynn added. “It’s time for the Religious Right to stop trying to drag churches into backroom politics.”

During the original Pastor Initiative, according to [Pastor Jim Garlow of Skyline Wesleyan Church], 33 pastors knowingly and purposefully violated federal law by issuing and recording political speech from their pulpits, and afterward provided those recordings to the IRS, which did not prosecute. The following year, a total of 84 pastors did the same — also without penalty. And the year after that 100 pastors did the same without penalty.

“This year,” Garlow said, “we expect close to 500 pastors to intentionally in their sermons defy the Johnson Amendment — they can speak whatever they want — and mail it to the IRS and the Alliance Defense Fund will defend [their right to do so].”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Pastors who play politics from the pulpit" by The Christian Science Monitor's Editorial Board 9/30/11

These pastors, most of them evangelical, are part of an effort to bait the Internal Revenue Service into fining one of the churches or taking away its tax-exempt status. If the IRS takes the bait, then that case will be challenged all the way up to the Supreme Court in hopes of overturning the law.

Drawing this fine line between church and state, or between spiritual matters and electioneering, is a protection from government intrusion on organized religion. And it helps political parties from being controlled by a particular religion – something the Muslim world is actively debating, even killing over.

Sorting out the competing issues, however, won’t be easy if the issue gets to the high court. Even harder is the need to persuade all religious groups to stay clear of directly intervening in elections – so that such a law wouldn’t even need to exist.

People of faith do need to be involved in public affairs – to vote, to pray, and even to individually endorse candidates. But if an organized religion wants to be held separate enough from government and not be taxed, it ought not morph into something else, like a political machine, come every election.

To read the entire editorial above, CLICK HERE.

From "Evangelical pastors heed a political calling for 2012" by Tom Hamburger and Matea Gold, McClatchy Newspapers 9/18/11

This new activism [of Christians and their pastors] has substantial muscle behind it: a cadre of experienced Christian organizers and some of the conservative movement’s most generous donors, who are setting up technologically sophisticated operations to reach pastors and their congregations in battleground states.

The passion for politics stems from a collision of historic forces, including heightened local organizing around issues of abortion and gay marriage and a view of the country’s debt as a moral crisis that violates biblical instruction. Another major factor: both Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Bachmann, leading contenders for the GOP nomination, are openly appealing to evangelical Christian voters as they blast President Barack Obama’s leadership.

[Today's] current awakening is different [from the past]. It springs from the grass-roots, small and independent churches, and is fueled by emails and YouTube videos. And it is driven less by personality than by adherence to the biblical teaching to be the “salt” and “light” of society — in other words, to have a beneficial influence on the world.

“This is the congregational version of the tea party,” says Richard Land, president of the conservative Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Pastors who in the past would dodge my calls are calling me saying, ‘How can we be involved?’ “

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Most Pastors Don't Want IRS Regulating Sermons on Politics" by Nathan Black, Christian Post Reporter 9/13/11

Amid ongoing debate over whether pastors should be allowed to preach on political candidates and issues, a new survey reveals that most pastors do not want the government regulating their sermons.

Seventy-nine percent of surveyed Protestant pastors said they strongly disagree with the statement: "The government should regulate sermons by revoking a church's tax exemption if its pastor approves of or criticizes candidates based on the church's moral beliefs or theology."

Another seven percent "somewhat" disagreed, according to the survey, which was sponsored by the Alliance Defense Fund and conducted by LifeWay Research.

Only 10 percent of the pastors agreed with the statement.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

To read the history of the IRS regulation against churches, CLICK HERE.