Pastors’ sermons will defy IRS rules

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On Sunday, some 1,400 American pastors are planning to break the law.

And they’re likely to get away with it.


As part of Pulpit Freedom Sunday, religious leaders across the country will endorse political candidates — an act that flies in the face of Internal Revenue Service rules about what tax-exempt organizations, such as churches, can and cannot do.

The IRS says tax-exempt organizations, or what they refer to as a 501(c)(3), are prohibited from participating in partisan campaigning for or against political candidates. Yet, despite what’s in the rules, the agency continues to struggle to do anything about those who defy the law.

Though the regulation has been in place since 1954, in 2009, a U.S. District Court in Minnesota ruled the IRS no longer had the appropriate staff to investigate places of worship after a reorganization changed who in the agency had the authority to launch investigations.

New procedures for conducting church audits have been pending since 2009, which has left the IRS virtually impotent in conducting any kind of new investigations. The IRS did not respond to questions.

Despite the lack of manpower, organizations such as Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal ministry that first launched Pulpit Freedom Sunday in 2008, say they take the IRS restriction seriously — even as they disagree with it.

“Every pastor and every church has the right to decide what their pastor preaches from the pulpit and to not have that dictated to them by the IRS,” said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, formerly the Alliance Defense Fund.

Written By: Lilly Fowler
continue to source article at stltoday.com

13 COMMENTS

  1. What if people attended churches and, if something of a political nature was preached, spoke out? They would probably be ejected from the service, but it might make the evening news. Just a thought…
    Steve

  2. I’m sure I remember reading somewhere quite recently that in Great Britain, David Cameron and his government were trying to introduce something called the ‘Pastor Tax’, but they were forced to back down on account of some guy called Greg.

  3. Fine . They are just providing evidence they are simply political organisations and deserve no benefits at all. Get them all doing in, then they can all lose their deductions at once, just on the say so of one guy in the IRS.

  4. What happened to the rule of law?

    My understanding was that the United States was founded on these principles:

    – Thomas Paine: “In America, the law is king. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.”

    – John Adams: [we need to establish] “a government of laws and not of men.”

    These Pastors must acept that they are breaking a trust with the American people that goes all the way back to the Constitution.

    Breaking the law in order to protest is fine, but these Pastors must accept that the rule of law applies, and that breaking the law is imoral and has consequences.

    If it is true that “Every pastor and every church has the right to decide what their pastor preaches from the pulpit and to not have that dictated to them by the IRS,” then the IRS has the right to apply the law to its fullest extent – and withdraw tax exempt status.

    To do otherwise would be antithetical to the rule of law. If preachers are allowed to preach politics, tax free, with impunity then the Goverment’s acquiescence will mean that the Goverment is funding partisan politics as well as religion.

    By so favouring a minority – allowing them to operate above the law both economically and politically – the Government would be undermining the rule of law through inaction. They would, in effect, be allowing the emergence of a new aristocracy. That would be a strange thing for a country founded on the equality of its citizens to do.

    But, try as I might, I can’t get excited about this. These people are attempting to create a precedent. But for a precedent to be truly set, the courts must rule on the degree of overlap of law and transgression (the Priests have already pleaded guilty to intent to break the law – what remains to be decided is only the extent that they do in fact).

    Given their public statements of intent, the IRS and FBI would be incompetent, indolent and negligent if they did not monitor the situation closely.

    But the Pastors have made a tactical error. This close to the actual election, what is their likely impact? It seems to me that it would be minimal. In the meantime, the wheels of justice tend to grind slowly. There can be no grand-standing confrontations this side of the election. They will probably only, therefore, preach to their own flocks and the precedent will be set post-election.

    Peace.

  5.  I don’t agree. That is certainly what the Republicans want you to think but there are plenty of Christians, in fact I would guess probably even a majority, that are not Republicans. Its rather like Islam there is a small obnoxious very vocal minority that gets all the attention but is not representative of the group as a whole. I’ve been doing a lot of political work the last month and many of the people I’ve been working with have been Christians (and we sure aren’t working to get out the vote for Republicans).

  6.  I think you are mis-reading their strategy. I don’t think they care all that much about one election. So while I agree with you that what they are doing won’t impact this election much, anyone in their flock was pretty much guaranteed to vote against the Kenyan Communist Nazi anyway, but there is a lot of long term potential damage here. If they can get away with this suddenly it could open up the flood gates and all the preachers would start making specific voting recommendations and that would signify a major shift in the US, essentially demolishing an important part of the wall between church and state.

    It will be an interesting test for Obama (the FBI and IRS of course both ultimately report to him) assuming he wins. On the one hand he already gets all sorts of irrational conspiracy theory criticism for doing the most basic things to require churches and their various charities to follow the law (e.g. the nonsense about birth control). The right wing will go nuts if he starts actually prosecuting these guys and taking away their tax exempt status. Yet its clear they are breaking the law and deserve to lose it, in some ways I don’t think he has a choice, he will have to go after them.

  7. Hi Red Dog,

    ” I don’t think they care all that much about one election. “
    – We agree on that point then. Their long-term strategy is to set a precedent, so that they can keep doing it.

    ” If they can get away with this suddenly it could open up the flood gates and all the preachers would start making specific voting recommendations and that would signify a major shift in the US, essentially demolishing an important part of the wall between church and state. “
    – Right, we agree on that point too. I used the term aristocracy as a kind of shorthand for your longer explanation.

    ” … Obama (the FBI and IRS of course both ultimately report to him) “
    – That point had not escaped me. Though you are assuming that Romney, if he won, would be both beholden enough, and short-sighted enough to order the Feds to back off. Your point also assumes that he can, which I find unconvincing. The Feds daily task is to apply the law. While executive influence and set priorities can be very powerful, can they overturn the law wholesale? Guantanamo Detention Center suggests that it can in limited circumstances, but I remain to be convinced that we are discussing a limited circumstance … ?

    ” The right wing will go nuts if he starts actually prosecuting these guys and taking away their tax exempt status. Yet its clear they are breaking the law and deserve to lose it, in some ways I don’t think he has a choice, he will have to go after them. “
    – Again, exactly my point. Are the Right, perhaps, looking for a cause to use as a kind of public arena filibuster to derail major legislation in an Obama second term?

    It seems to me that the Right is spoiling for a fight, but it doesn’t worry me because they’ve chosen the wrong kind of fight. Many of them have tried rewriting the Constitution in recent years, but it remains a minority pastime viewed by the majority as a club for geeks with too few social skills and too much spare time on their hands.

    I would welcome more of your feedback.

    Peace.

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