Pulpit Initiative About Freedom, not Politics

The purpose of the Alliance Defense Fund’s Pulpit Initiative is to restore the right of pastors to speak freely from … Continued

The purpose of the Alliance Defense Fund’s Pulpit Initiative is to restore the right of pastors to speak freely from the pulpit without fear of punishment by the government for doing what churches do: speak on any number of cultural and societal issues from a biblical perspective. The purpose of the Pulpit Initiative is not – as some have said to confuse the issue – about whether pastors should or should not “endorse” candidates. The issue with which ADF is concerned is over who regulates what may be said from the pulpit.

So, the Pulpit Initiative is not about…

· turning the church into a Political Action Committee
· allowing contributions to candidates
· any particular candidate or political party
· “political” speech
· endorsing or opposing candidates

· turning the church into a Political Action Committee
· allowing contributions to candidates
· any particular candidate or political party
· “political” speech
· endorsing or opposing candidates

The Pulpit Initiative is…

· a bold defense of the First Amendment’s Establishment, Free Exercise, and Free Speech clauses
· about protecting core religious expression
· only related to what a pastor says from his pulpit, for example, on a Sunday morning (i.e., not about voter guides, candidate appearances, or other “political” activities)

· a bold defense of the First Amendment’s Establishment, Free Exercise, and Free Speech clauses
· about protecting core religious expression
· only related to what a pastor says from his pulpit, for example, on a Sunday morning (i.e., not about voter guides, candidate appearances, or other “political” activities)

Certainly, congregations and a church’s leadership can tell pastors they don’t want names of candidates spoken from the pulpit. But that is very different from government censorship. To government regulators, today’s “Gospel” may well be words that are tomorrow’s “politics.” ADF has already defended Americans in many cases where publicly preaching words straight from the Gospel has led to censorship…and even jail.

The bottom line is that no enforcement agency of the federal government should be telling a pastor what he can or cannot say from his pulpit about the Bible and his church’s teaching on the issues of the hour – even if the pastor’s sermon applies Scripture and church teaching to candidates and elections. Such agencies certainly cannot condition tax-exempt status–a status churches have always been constitutionally guaranteed since our founding–on the surrender of cherished First Amendment rights.

In fact, for 166 years, churches freely preached directly on political candidates’ qualifications for office. That was no problem when the Constitution was signed, or when the first Commissioner of Internal Revenue was appointed in 1862, or when the federal income tax was authorized by the 16th Amendment in 1913. Nor were churches transformed into political machines.

When the IRS code was amended in 1954 to ban “intervention” in political campaigns, it was an act of political retaliation by then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson against two anti-communist groups. It had nothing to do with “church politicking,” and scholars agree that churches were not the target of the regulation.

ADF has the U.S. Constitution and the weight of American history on its side. Those who oppose the Pulpit Initiative have yet to make one constitutionally-derived argument against it. It is ironic that they laud the “separation of church and state” in opposition to the Pulpit Initiative, but by opposing the initiative, are asking for continued government control and censorship of a pastor’s sermon.

The pulpit is no place for government regulators.

Erik Stanley is senior legal counsel and head of the Alliance Defense Fund’s Pulpit Initiative (www.telladf.org/church). ADF is a legal alliance employing a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

About

  • Rufus

    Is ADF really Christian?This group prays on Sundays and the rest of the week preys on New Yorkers by serving food from dirty restaurants. An ADF-owned KFC/Taco Bell was closed by New York health inspectors last week after TV news crews peering through the windows recorded about a dozen rats skittering across the floors and climbing on tables and countertops. The restaurant wasn’t open at the time, and officials later said construction in the basement might have stirred up the rodents.The video, still circulating on the Internet, also brought shame on the city for giving a passing grade to the restaurant during a health inspection one day earlier.ADF spokeswoman Marissa Smith said she didn’t know exactly how many of the company’s 20 restaurants in New York City had closed but described it as “a handful.” The closures did not extend to other states, she said.It was unclear how quickly the restaurants might reopen. Smith said each was getting a rigorous new inspection.Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said the city’s failure to immediately shut the Greenwich Village KFC/Taco Bell after learning of the rat problem was unacceptable. The inspector who conducted the initial review has been temporarily removed from field duty.Frieden also said that other restaurant inspectors could expect a thorough analysis of their work in the coming weeks.

  • Mike K.

    “Such agencies certainly cannot condition tax-exempt status–a status churches have always been constitutionally guaranteed since our founding…”What section of the Constitution guarantees condition-free tax exempt status for churches?

  • ADF

    Regarding the comment posted by Rufus:The “ADF” he mentions is a different “ADF.” It is not the Alliance Defense Fund.

  • Darren

    Keep your a*& out of politics moron. Try reading a bit of history and looking into WHY WE FOUGHT THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR!! TO keep overbearing a&%holes like you and your freaking ilk OUT OF POLITICS!!

  • VICTORIA

    Mr. Stanley, It is a gross hypocrisy to lie under the umbrella of the Constitution, and be protected by the government- while at the same time declaring the same government intervention- which gave you that freedom- set it’s own rules as to how it may be practiced, be rejected. The government gave us freedom to practice our religion without impediment. Political practices are not protected in the same way. It is an abuse of the special tax exempt status- to use the forum allowed for RELIGIOUS expression- for purposes other than what is intended.

  • VICTORIA

    “The pulpit is no place for government regulators.”

  • R. Schofield

    You don’t really believe that, do you? Can citizens force the IRS to enforce the constitution? How do we do that?

  • John Nagle

    OK, so some churches are going to be taxed. Good. We need all the revenue we can get right now.

  • steved

    The government does say what churches can preach, only tax exempt entities. If you want to be tax exempt, follow the rules. If you don’t think you should have to follow the rules, then give up your tax exempt status.The laws only apply to entities that are claiming to be tax exempt.

  • awenshok’08

    Just another end-run around the tax code. If you feel that strongly about it, close your church run business, schools (madrassa), and other (charitable?!!) organizations that ‘contribute to sustaining the church’ or pay your fair share of the taxes. What about your private jets, your limos, your Rolexes, your ranches…

  • Jeff

    There is nothing preventing churches from being politically active or of preachers from endorsing candidates from the pulpit. It isn’t illegal to do so, but you will lose your tax exempt status if you do so.So, they are free to do so, they just have to chose to pay taxes if they feel its that important. But this applies to ALL tax-exempt organizations. So, for example, the Red-Cross can’t endorse a candidate either, this rule doesn’t just apply to churches.You are free to say whatever you want, but you aren’t free to do it AT TAX PAYER EXPENSE. And that is the real issue here. I, AS A TAX PAYER, should not be forced to pay the taxes for an organization that is going to use my tax money to engage in political activity that is against my own interests.Tax-exempt status is a PRIVILEGE! If you want that privilege then you have to abide by the attached strings. If you don’t want to abide by those strings then GIVE UP THE PRIVILEGE, YOU CAN’T HAVE IT BOTH WAYS!

  • Gnostic

    As a religious person, I think someone should blaspheme against the evangelical Mammon.Let’s be honest. Most of these pastors wouldn’t be in business if it weren’t for Tax Exemption.Someone needs to face the truth and speak it openly. The best way to combat religious corruption, cults, false religion and charletons is to do away with Tax Exemption.I guarantee you, half the churches in the country would disapear because they are not honest to their parishoners. They only care about power and wealth.A truely spiritual person would understand this.

  • lawrence

    thank you darren & victoria for good comments.

  • Intelligent Lady

    Why all the noise about this issue now? The black churches have been endorsing politican candidates for many years and yet nothing has been done about that. Why now? What about the former church of Rev. Wright?

  • Jay Sorensen

    This is an easy one. Pastors can be free to speak whatever they want from the pulpit. However, they risk losing their tax free status. No one is denying their right to speak, but church members will need to consider making deductions that are not tax deductible. So, is the Christian right not willing to open their wallets wider for Christ?

  • Titus

    It would be in the public good and the good of the churches and faiths to remove tax exemption for all.

  • J Quinlan

    Rubbish. Why should these tax-exempt entities continue to enjoy that privilege while they speak out on political issues? They can speak as much as they would like – but give up not paying taxes!

  • Larry Linn

    The clergy should have the right to express political guidence from the sanctuary of their house of worship. However, if they become political, they should pay property taxes, income taxes, etc.

  • Mel

    Churches, preachers and religious institutions are and always have been free to speak out against or to promote whomever and whatever they want, as long as they pay their taxes. Render unto Caesar, and such.

  • Time To Stand Up

    Finally, the charade of separation of church and state on the part of the extreme wing of the Republican Party is over. In the marketplace of ideas, all Americans can finally decide if they want a Taliban-style theocracy centered out of Orange County California ruling their lives. If people thought Californians were generally wacky, wait until they get a load of our fringe religious nuts!!!

  • Bruce Pettycrew

    The separation of church and state applies

  • Lumberjack

    You convinced me. I’m going to start a group on facebook of churches and the religious who want tax exemption for religions removed from the lawbooks.

  • John Tate

    I believe a church is for people to come together and worship. Talking politics is going to drive a wedge and split the congregation. It will do nothing but divide the Church. The republican party doesn’t really care about morals. They just pretend to get the votes of trusting people. Don’t let them destroy your church just for votes. Stay above such earthly arguments.

  • drew merchant

    Okay, then, start paying taxes and there won’t be any problem. If you want to start dipping into the State issues, then you cross the divide.

  • Rob

    But what if the pastors are dead wrong? What if the bible and Christianity are false? Typically, a Christians values are based on dogma and the bible for which there is no historical attestation for either. So the basis of the logic and dogma are false. Religious leaders in America, having tax free status in their churches…should not be allowed to use their persuasion and their brainwashing techniques to influence political outcomes.

  • Zeus

    Why am I paying taxes for something you want to believe in anyways? Not all of us have an invisible dragon in the garage.

  • mkoch

    Sorry, Mr. Stanley, it seems the majority of Americans disagree with you. Have your nice profitable enterprise pay taxes like the rest of us, and you’re free to endorse whoever you want.

  • BF

    The pastors have every right to speak their mind, just like everyone else. And they can pay their taxes, just like everyone else. No censorship, no problem.And you call yourself a lawyer? Wow…

  • Ed Magowan

    quote: “Such agencies certainly cannot condition tax-exempt status–a status churches have always been constitutionally guaranteed since our founding–on the surrender of cherished First Amendment rights.” Bull!!! Nowhere in the Constitution is any such malarky found! Tax all churches. No exemptions for anyone. Better yet, FairTax. If you want religion in government, move to Iran.

  • iPaul

    “The pulpit is no place for government regulators.” –The pulpit is no place for electoral politics. If preachers want to turn themselves into activists for or against political candidates or platforms, let them get in line with other PACs and pay their taxes like other businesses are required to.

  • Richard

    Got That Right. 501c3 churches are on pedesatals of hypocracy. Scripture is the framework for the U.S. Constitution and Amendments.

  • SenorPlaid

    I have no problem with pastors endorsing candidates and making political speeches from the pulpit — as soon as they join the public community by paying taxes. And not one second before.Either you participate fully in our democracy or you butt out. You can’t have it both ways.

  • James Moore

    There are plenty of ways to “guide” your flock, but out right endorsement of specific candidates from the pulpit has no place in faith today. I will vigorously work for repeal of tax-exempt status for anyone I see preaching politics from the pulpit. Fortunately, most people are smart enough to use their own judgement, and those that aren’t are just idiots. I’m glad to have divorced myself from the narrow-minded sanctimonious people who call themselves Christians but in reality are not at all.

  • Gnostic

    Indeed, the tax exempt status of the churches is at the root of the corruption evident in religion in society.

  • Alex P

    It is time for pastors and priests to come out of the woodwork and preach against the inequalities of life, the greed and corruption, and the fact that it is immoral to invade another country and to lie about it. Unfortunately if they does this they would be advocating voting out the republicans and to base you sermon on just one subject ‘abortion’ and to encourage voting for big mac shows how lacking in leadership qualities they are.Jesus was the first liberal who promoted the idea that all people were equal and that it wasn’t just the rich who counted. He also turned of the tables of the money changes which is something we could do with today. He was a community organizer who I’m sure would be up set with the present church system that is more hell bent on money than anything else. I’m sure he wouldn’t care about the tax exempt status after all he was crucified for preaching what he did.As a community organizer I can see him stood right next to Obama having more in common with him than McCain and the republican party.

  • Mike D

    The church has no right to a tax break with my tax money to make any form of political statement. This is not censorship, the church has ever right to say what they want but not if they claim a tax exemption.

  • Kert

    The government has no right to regulate a pastors sermon or his convictions. Regulations can happen in many ways including taxes. Remember the separation of church and state. It actual is protection on both sides, not a provision to keep religios beliefs out of all government. It means that government should not try to control religion in any way.Why are people afraid of who a pastor might endorse. This is basic first amendment speach protection. No one would argue in other arenas that we have the right to tax other speakers more because they endorse candidates. I know Planned Parenthood endorses candidates and their given government money.By the way, I don’t believe in Pastors (or really anyone) endorsing candidates and our Church doesn’t practice it. But this is our religious conviction. I still believe Pastors should be able to preach their own conviction. It just seems that government policy in this case could change the outcome of an election.

  • Gnostic

    Kert, thats mendacious. No-one here is silencing their right to speak. They only want the churches to do the morally right thing and render unto Caeser.

  • Marc Edward

    You wanna endorse candidates, pay your frigging property taxes. If you parasites want to live off the taxpayer, than stay out of politics.

  • Kelly M

    Indeed, the federal government should never control what is said in churches. However, if those churches want to preserve their tax-exempt status, they need to refrain from engaging in political lobbying and advocacy. This isn’t about censorship… it is about not abusing the non-profit status that the government offers to organizations who engage in humanitarian endeavors in an apolitical manner.Have your cake or eat it, but don’t whine about not being able to do both.

  • Richard

    Our forefathers, in their wisdom, purposely excluded from the real world government they created, the fantasy world created by cavemen who stole the rites, dates, stories and fables of previous groups who were then forever disparaged as “pagans,” “savages” or worse. They knew that any fool who would, not only follow such nonsense, but get froth-mouthed in fanatical adherence to same should have as little voice as possible in OUR governence. Truth is 90% of the tithe-hosts don’t or simply can’t believe the nonsense they had to pretend to understand because their parents pretended etc. It should be enough that these sprawling, greedy shadow corporations should be pleased enough that they don’t have to pay taxes on their vast holdings. To dare to impose their funky will on the rest of us with foolish questions about a candidate’s faith and the suggestion that it matters in the real world is frankly insane. They can say whatever crazy thing their parishoners will sit still for but we all see what happened in 2000 when they decided the insane, dull tool of greed and war Bush was god’s man on planet earth. Keep your illness out of our government…or pay some serious taxes. Interesting that these religious institutions, like the vulgar wealthy and corporations, pay little or no taxes while the hoi polloi both prey (not pray) on, the working/middle classes pick up the tab for all their earthly comforts.

  • Titus

    I question the morality of any church being tax exempt. But beyond this, our faith based initiatives are payoffs for those endoresments.

  • Intelligence

    Does removal of tax exempt status actually prevent preachers from engaging in politics or continuing to preach? No. Therefore it is NOT CENSORSHIP! Tax exempt status is granted to churches for very special reasons. They shouldn’t be allowed to abuse it.

  • rjd

    When you pay your taxes just like those of us who faith of their own but do not believe your nonsense, then you can talk. Oh yes, and no more special privileges for days off, military and social security exemptions and all the benefit that you assert as your right. Believe it or not, you are not divine. And we the people should not have to carry you on our backs.

  • Satan

    That’s great!!! It’s about time these companies started losing their tax exempt status and paid taxes like the rest of us!

  • nswfm

    OK, then, if they want freedom, they can have it as long as they pay the IRS like the rest of us. That’ll pay for the bailout plan…Paulson just didn’t have a clueAnatole Kaletsky | September 25, 2008 Until last week, I was in a minority of one in arguing that Mr Paulson was personally responsible for suddenly turning the painful but manageable credit crunch that had been grinding away 18 months in the background of the US economy into a global catastrophe. Mr Paulson’s appearances on Capitol Hill, marked by the characteristic Bush-era combination of arrogance and incompetence, are turning my once-outlandish view into conventional wisdom: Henry Paulson is to finance what Donald Rumsfeld was to military strategy, Dick Cheney to geopolitics and Michael Chertoff to flood defence. Mr Paulson may be a former chairman of Goldman Sachs, but as US Treasury Secretary he does not know what he is doing. His recent blunders, starting with the “rescue” of Fannie Mae, have triggered unintended consequences around the world, resulting in the death-spiral of financial values. But last Friday Mr Paulson outdid even these Rumsfeldian achievements, when he demanded $700 billion from Congress for a “comprehensive and fundamental” solution to the global financial crisis, without apparently having any idea of what he would actually do. The good news – before I return to the perils of Mr Paulson – is that his blunders no longer matter very much. There will still be a huge US government bank bailout, which will probably avert a disastrous slump in the US and global economies. But because Mr Paulson has lost the political initiative, this bailout will now be led by the Democratic leadership in Congress and will be structured around its priorities – relief from mortgage foreclosures, restrictions on bankers’ pay and big government shareholdings in US banks. For President Bush it is a disaster, dashing his last faint hope of having a tangible achievement to his name before he leaves office. How did things come to such a pass? When Mr Paulson announced his $700 billion “plan” last Friday, everybody in the financial world (myself included) heaved a sigh of relief. Finally, it seemed, the US Government was going to do whatever it takes to stabilise the world financial system. The universal assumption was that Mr Paulson would present a detailed plan of action over the weekend, putting a safety net under the value of homes, mortgages and related assets. Yet all that appeared by Saturday evening was a three-page legislative outline, with no hint of the mechanisms to be used. The only substantive clause in the draft was a swaggering demand for untrammelled power: “Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to this Act are non-reviewable and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.” When further details of the Paulson plan failed to appear on Sunday it was assumed that the details were being untangled in late-night political negotiations. When there was still no plan on Monday, the view was that Mr Paulson must be holding back the details for his testimony to the Senate Banking Committee the following day. But then, to everyone’s astonishment, Mr Paulson turned up to the committee on Tuesday morning with only the briefest opening statement, which simply repeated what he had already said the week before: the sky was falling and the only way to stop it was to give him authority over $700 billion in public money, to be spent in unspecified ways. And suddenly the sky did fall down – not on the world economy, but on Mr Paulson. Consider the reactions from American politicians, including Republicans: “Stunning and unprecedented in its lack of detail”… “a $700 billion blank cheque to Wall Street”… “neither workable nor comprehensive”… “foolish waste of massive taxpayer funds”… “eerily similar to the rush to war in Iraq”. Best of all was John McCain’s comment: “When we’re talking about a trillion dollars of taxpayer money, ‘trust me’ just isn’t good enough.” At first, nobody could quite believe Mr Paulson was incompetent. Was it really possible that the Treasury Secretary had no idea of what to do with this unprecedented financial firepower? Perhaps his silence on crucial issues such as what he would pay for the banks’ “troubled assets” was just a tactical ruse. But as the cross-examination rolled on, and Mr Paulson just waffled – “we will ask experts to advise us”, “we will get the best and brightest financiers to suggest ideas” – the terrible truth dawned. There was no such thing as a Paulson plan. Not only did Mr Paulson not know what he was doing. He did not know what he was talking about. When pressed to offer at least some basic principles for his rescue, Mr Paulson had no answers. When challenged about limits to executive remuneration and taxpayer stakes in future profits of participating banks, he brusquely rejected all such proposals – on the amazing ground that they might discourage some of the stronger banks from taking advantage of government support! Could he really be so clueless? Surely not. Why, then, has Mr Paulson failed? His inability to think seriously about solutions to the present financial crisis probably has deep ideological roots. Just as Mr Rumsfeld could simply not believe that US foreign policy might be misguided, Mr Paulson simply cannot believe that markets can be fundamentally wrong. He therefore cannot imagine, for example, that government judgments about the value of bank securities may, in some circumstances, reflect economic realities more accurately than market prices. Since some such recognition of market failure is fundamental to any understanding of banking crises, it is not surprising that Mr Paulson finds it difficult to come up with a credible solution. The ideological pendulum is now swinging but what is needed to avoid future crises is not necessarily more regulation. It is better-quality regulation, managed by people who understand and respect markets but do not worship them. Markets are usually right, but sometimes they are dangerously wrong – and they need to be managed with decisive and competent government intervention. The people who do not understand the role of government should not be regulating markets any more than they should be fighting wars or managing flood defences. P.J.O’Rourke, the conservative writer, once remarked: “The Republicans are a party that says government doesn’t work – and then get elected and prove it.” This should be the epitaph for the Bush Administration – and Mr Paulson. The Times

  • Kenneth R. Kellum

    Churches have no constitutional right to be exempt from taxes. The government has the right to place conditions on tax-free status and to enforce those conditions.Pastors have the right to say anything they want. They do not have the right to violate the requirements for tax-free status and expect to not pay taxes.

  • MikeL

    Churches are tax-free pyramid-shaped businesses who enjoy virtually unlimited free labor, donated materials, etc. Endorse all you want, but do not claim to be a church when you are a political body.

  • Publius Tigerias

    Bah Hogwash.Preachers should stick to the gospel.Christ told his followers to bein the world but no part of it.

  • mickey

    Politics is about compromise and corruption. Christianity is about spiritual opposition to such things. Any pastor, or other Christian, who puts faith in politics or politicians is a deluded fool. Do they think salvation will come from government laws and policies? What nonsense!

  • Gnostic

    Mickey, if what you say is true, then it is in the best interest of the religious, that their churches be tax to prove their honesty to would be converts. Otherwise, people will always assume your church is a business interested in money and power. I am religous, please tax my church.

  • Cyndi

    The government is not halting or surpressing their speech. It is simply asking them to do what all free Americans do… pay taxes. Freedom of speech is a right… but tax-exempt status is privilege. If you want to exercise your right, you must give up your privilege.

  • To Gnostic

    The government is silencing people by punishing them if they say something they don’t want them to say. How who you like it if we imposed a Tax on you for saying something that the government doesn’t want you to say. And again, other non-profits do it already. I just can’t imagine a government regulator watching my Pastor making sure he doesn’t say anything about candidates. Could a church lose tax-exempt for speaking out against issues of the day? It just goes over the line.By the way it isn’t morally right to pay taxes you don’t owe. Churches regularly pay what they owe and follow the law, even this law. The question here is whether it is moral to impose a regulation on a Church to pay taxes by regulating what is said from the pulpit.

  • steven

    Then we will pontificate about politics from every social gathering that we can: baseball games, football games, other churches, car washes .. you name it …

  • Mickey

    Gnostic,

  • Kurt

    The law doesn’t censor churches. The law is the same for all tax-exempt 501c3 organizations, church or not. They can’t endorse candidates. They can, however, support issues and causes. How is that in any way restricting? Talk about the issues all you want. You can still support issues without telling people how to vote.

  • Gaias Child

    Okay, so we can either change the rules of non-profit status or the churches can pay taxes like everybody else? I once worked, long ago, as a county tax appraiser and one thing we did was to compute the market value (theoretical property tax value) of exempt church holdings. Should those institutions add to the property tax base of their communities, it would very greatly lower the burden of private home owners and small business and larger business owners (although they mine their own tax breaks and they contribute to their communities as well). SO would these intrepid and brave first ammendment preachers like to contribute to their community property taxes? A whole new ministry and so constructive for schools, roads, infrastructure, law enforcement, safer communities. See how easy it is?

  • JT

    The tax exempt status should apply to all churches, left and right. Just because more of the right go to church doesn’t mean you liberals get to shut down the institution. Jeremiah Wright’s church, who blamed me for all of America’s ills, deserves tax exempt status because it is a church. And when does this stop, and on what issue? Will talking about political candidates be the end of it, or what about how button issues that involve a way a person believes? Tax exemption for all churches, left, right or whatever. If you don’t like the way things have been run around here for over 200 years, then I got some travel brochures for you.

  • Susan Wheeler

    There is an easy way to have that freedom of speeech the pastors are so exicited about. Give up the tax exemption and start paying taxes. If you accept that kind of a break from the goverment then you have to abide by the rules.It’s like the Endowment for the Arts grants – The religious are always getting excited about the art produced by taxpayers money and demanding that the grants are cancelled or returned. I feel the same way about Preachers preaching politics (and no matter the hair you are pslitting in the post it is politics) from the pulpit. Get off the Governement tit and then you can say whatever you want.

  • Gnostic

    Who is being silenced? I read political pontification in opinion articles all the time. I see pastors on punditry panels constantly. Where is this censorship? Lets face it, tax exemption has corrupted the church in America.

  • mkoch

    Some of you don’t seem to understand. There is no additional tax levied for speaking out politically. Churches are tax exempt. They do not pay the same taxes we all already pay. If they choose to exercise the right to endorse candidates, they lose that exemption.It’s really very simple. Churches receive the gift of tax exemption specifically because they do not engage in partisan politics.

  • R. Michael

    I am an ordained minister who has NEVER understood how/why churches enjoy a tax-exempt status as ‘charitable’ organizations/entities. What percentage of a typical church budget is designated for charitable activities and purposes? That figure is VERY small I would dare say. Unlike in past generations when churches built and operated hospitals, schools, orphanages and other ‘social/Christian’ programs – and most importantly absorbed the cost of operating these programs – so that ‘the least of these’ could receive medical care, an education or a helping hand when needed. Nowadays even ‘church-related’ hospitals and schools are no more ‘charitable’ than their privately or publicly owned counterparts. Most churches in the US spend the vast majority of their budgets on real estate/upkeep of their facilities and properties and staff salaries. Also, every large church I ever served had not only extensive property holdings but a VERY impressive investment portfolio as well.All in the name of God…but he was never listed as a trustee as far as I could tell. Most churches are very profitable. Thanks, in part, to their tax-free status.Now they want to formally enter the political process…not as individuals but as a voting ‘block’ or political action committee with a very specific political agenda.I say what Jesus would say. “No!” Pay your taxes as individuals and have an individual’s voice. But if you want your group or entity or organization or church to have a voice, then your organization’ must pay taxes as well!Otherwise keep your mouth shut and focus on actually becoming the ‘Christian/charitable orgainization’ you claim to be on your tax form.

  • Anonymous

    The government doesn’t give money to churches. It simply allows them to not pay taxes. Big difference.

  • Gnostic

    You see there is no logic in saying that you are “not of the world” and yet you cling to tax-exempt dollars like a you-know what. The lie is transparent.

  • Response to Susan

    So now we need to pay taxes to have freedom of speech. This is a horrible arguement.

  • Gnostic

    Evangelicals are Pharesees and Money-Changers. Tax them and make them honest brokers for Christ.

  • Eric

    Pastors say lots of wrong stuff from the pulpit. In my opinion, endorsing particular politicians is wrong, but that’s my opinion. Freedom of religion means nothing if it only applies to those beliefs and practices the government agrees with. Should we use tax policies to exert pressure on pastors for other things they say, beliefs they hold, etc.? Does the government really belong in our churches making sure pastors are saying the right things by the government? Anyone that wants that kind of government intrusion must have a bias against all organized religion to start with. Using government to enforce such biases completely contradicts any meaningful first amendment principles.

  • Anonymous

    CHURCHES DON’T MAKE MONEY. Any money they receive is used for the church which is the charity. Just because you don’t believe in your ministry doens’t mean others don’t believe in theirs. And they do support many things like schools, hospitals, and orphanages. Join a church you can believe in.

  • Scott

    In reading the many comments made earlier, I conclude the majority of folks believe only taxpayers are entitled to free speech.That is interesting interpretation of our laws. The idea of paying of ones taxes entitles one to a license to speak freely and the non-payment of taxes grants a limited license of speech. I was unaware that the government can, by IRS statute with the people’s approval, restrict the free speech of others in order for those groups to receive a tax benefit. I was under the mistaken impression that “free” speech is a right of all citizens. I was unaware it been reduced to just another tax-based license granted to only those that choose to pay.

  • Anonymous

    Right on Eric. The government has no business regulating what it doesn’t agree with. They could destroy the influence of the church.I think this is what many here are advocating.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Scott.

  • Gnostic

    Thats right, line your pockets with tax-exempt dollars, and make your grab for worldly power, and then like Satan your father, make your excuses. I think its clear that it is the evangelicals who ride the beast.

  • Mickey

    I really can’t see why these pastors want to throw in with politicians. Why not just use the pulpit to advise which porn movies to watch and which brothels to frequent? So-called pastors and Christians embracing political garbage and trying to legislate salvation and morality is what has heaped so much discredit upon the Christian church. I am an evangelical, but I don’t look to political christians-of-convenience to do the Lord’s work.

  • Anonymous

    test

  • Gnostic

    Mickey, I think you and I are wanting to get to the same place.Can we agree on one of these two?1. Churches(pastors) politically active and taxed.2 Churches(pastors) not politically active and not taxed.I think there is a consensus that number 3…3.) Churches(pastors) politically active and not taxed…should not be tolerated as it has been.It hasn’t escaped anyones attention that until the economic crisis, religion has dominated the presidential race.

  • Mickey

    Gnostic,

  • Joe

    It’s bad enough that a church gets tax breaks to begin with, and even worse if they become political action committees. The fundamental principle of modern evangelism is “personal salvation,” which is not in any way related to good deeds in the community. These churches are more country clubs for members than hospitals for sinners, or disciples spreading the light. So why do they get tax breaks? Why can’t they help pay for schools and roads like the rest of the community???And now we propose these freeloaders should be able to become politically active on the tax payer dollar?WHY WHY WHY should I be forced to fund a church that is nothing but a, say, Republican mouthpiece? And I do fund it, because us taxpayers take up the slack for the tax funds that churches aren’t ponying up. And just as a disclaimer, I attend church every week.

  • Garak

    No one has a right to a tax exemption. Congress has every right to impose conditions on tax exemptions. Freedom of speech doesn’t even enter into this. If you don’t like it, you’re free to relinquish your tax exemption and stop freeloading off the public.If you do have a free speech right as you claim, then colleges have a free speech right to deny organizations discriminating against gays and lesbians from interviewing students on their campuses. But they lost on this in Supreme Court, as will you. You real argument is that as religious organizations, you are above the law. That is inane and goes against the everything for which America stands. What’s next, that pastors are immune from laws criminalizing pedophilia?

  • PD

    Tax exempt status is a privilege, not a right. Churches forfeit that privilege when they elect to be political. No one is stopping them from embracing their right to free speech. Go ahead… support candidates, be partisan… but you don’t get taxpayer money in that case. Which is certainly right, I don’t want MY taxes going toward a right-wing pro-McCain church. Moreover, they want to infringe on MY basic right to separation of church and state. The IRS had better not roll over and ignore this.

  • Freestinker

    Churches and Pastors should not be tax exempt. That way citizens will not be compelled to support religion and Churches/Pastors would be allowed to speak freely on any topic they wish.Who can argue with such a fair compromise? Come on Preachers, if you won’t put your money where your faith is then your faith is still for sale!

  • Thomas Mc

    Good, that will be 35 churches that will now have to pay taxes, instead of leeching off of society.

  • Just my opinion

    Government has chosen to err very much to the side of caution in this area for several reasons.1. In many churches, political action is seen as a means of acting out one’s faith – these denominations can include the UCC, some Episcopal and Lutheran Churches and many “Post-Millennial” denominations that believe it is their religious duty to usher in the Kingdom of God.2. Some minority churches – particularly the traditional Black Churches – have had a strong political bent because church was seen as one of the only places that they had group power and group pride.3. There is often a fine line between what is ‘political’ and what is ‘religious.’ Abortion is the great example in the U.S. For many it is a politically allowed civil right; for others a religious wrong.4. There would be an outcry to then limit the tax exempt status on all non-profits and charities – particularly those with a strong political stance. AARP, the ACLU, the NAACP, the Red Cross and Planned Parenthood are all hailed for their good deeds by their supporters – wonderful and beneficial organizations, but they have strong political positions. Churches, too, have done and continue to do wonderful things in our country (for example: most private hospitals were begun with affiliation with some church – as were many, if not most, private colleges and universities).

  • Gnostic

    Mickey, that is a fair assessment. I, however, though religious, don’t ascribe to the same view of Christ teachings, but I’m aware of yours and according to that you are absolutely right. The way it is now is unacceptable, and I dare say that pastors that complain about losing their tax-exempt status by going political are shouting to you their iniquity. How can these evil people dare poke others in the eye on issues of morality especially when that morality is purely of a carnal nature. Sex? Abortion? These are issues of the flesh, and such obsessions are materialistic in their own right. Why don’t they speak out about injustice, honesty, the worship of money and materialism, ethics, fairness? You know, spiritual matters.

  • Pithaughn

    Right, again with the no regulations needed. Since pastors and church officials are still wretched sinners, no matter how holey they say they are, I for one do not trust them to self regulate any more than I trust Wall Street investment bankers to self regulate.

  • Jennifer

    If pastors want the freedom to endorse a candidate, they only need to change their tax status. Currently, church leaders can speak to issues from the pulpit. They just can’t endorse parties or politicians, as that would conflict with their not for profit tax exemption.This is voluntary for churches and religious organizations. If they want to benefit from tax exemption, this is the agreement they make.If they want to talk not just about scripture and issues, but want to endorse a candidate, just change your tax exempt status. Again, totally voluntary and no one will complain.I personally don’t think it is fair that other non-profits are asked to abide by these rules, but churches want to be exempt from them.If they were forced into these rules, I would understand, but they opted to incorporate in a way that carries one small restriction on being non-partisan. That was the choice the church made, not the government. All the government is doing is enforcing the rules equally.The group sponsoring this day of disrepute has always given bad advice to pastors. And every group that has tried to implement their suggestions gets caught and has to pay fines and loose exemptions. I don’t think they have every been on the right side of the law even once. So, why any pastor would put their trust in their perpetually bad analysis is beyond me.

  • joe six pack

    they can say want. But why should they be tax exempteed and be subsidized by all of us who may disagree with what they say?

  • Max

    No, this is not about free speech or any of the other points you brought up. This is about churches wanting to have their cake and eat it too. Churches enjoy a special status in our society, and for that status they aren’t required to pay taxes on the hundreds of millions of dollars they rake in every year. Pastors simply want to directly tell their ‘flock’ exactly who to vote for without having to give up any income from their business.Do you also think that all the other non-profits out there that don’t engage in political activity to keep tax exempt status should now have the option to engage in political activity? For example, should the Sierra Club once again be eligible as a tax exempt organization? Or do you think that this is maybe extra special status that churches alone should be afforded.

  • Sam Davis

    What a colossal pile of crap! This is all about Republican pastors endorsing John McCain and other Republicans. ADF is slanted so far to the right they can’t or won’t admit their bias. I’m looking forward to monitoring pastors in my area (Houston, TX) and turning them in to the IRS as I have done in the past.

  • Larry Linn

    Preachers, Ministers, Priests, and Rabbis should be free to endorse cancidates and express political opinions. They should not be tax exempt.

  • Farnaz

    I cannot understand why churches (by which I mean all houses of worship regardless of faith) continue to benefit from tax exempt status. Whether or not a particular church delivers social services (and not all do), they qualify.This is highway robbery no matter how you look at it. First off, it means that social services have been sectarianized–even for those churches that do provide social services. If they are tax exempt, then persons of all faiths or no faith should be elligible for them, but they will not, by definition, receive them.Now that challenges remain for faith-based funding, the theft of tax dollars through tax exemption for churches must be examined. Social services delivered by churches should, in future, be delivered through government-run community-based agencies. If churches wish to take up philanthropic activity, their congregants are, of course, free to fund it.In the meantime, an audit should be conducted to see precisely how this tax exempt status is being used. In cases of malfeasance, penalties should be assessed.Either we have separation of church and state, or we don’t. If we do, then tax exemptions for churches is a violation of that policy.

  • Bill

    Any citizen can say whatever he or she wants. That is freedom of speech. Churches get tax exemptions. If the pastor wants to proselytize for a particular candidate from the pulpit, he is free to do so, but that church should not be getting a tax exemption. Nobody is muzzling speech. Just keeping partisan politics out of tax exempt institutions.

  • bc

    i believe in freedom of speech for pastors speaking from the pulpit (or anywhere else) … and i believe that pastors should not receive govt subsidies in the form of exemption from taxation … so the churches can enjoy freedoms and responsibilities … they should either be ‘all in’ or ‘all out’ …

  • Cleo

    Farnaz-”Now that challenges remain for faith-based funding, the theft of tax dollars through tax exemption for churches must be examined. Social services delivered by churches should, in future, be delivered through government-run community-based agencies. If churches wish to take up philanthropic activity, their congregants are, of course, free to fund it.In the meantime, an audit should be conducted to see precisely how this tax exempt status is being used. In cases of malfeasance, penalties should be assessed.Either we have separation of church and state, or we don’t. If we do, then tax exemptions for churches is a violation of that policy”Well said. It’s probably unconstitutional on its face. Even if its already been ruled on, it should be brought to the Supreme Court again. It’s an outrage.

  • Jane

    The Bible clearly states that we should follow the laws of the land and that the church should be separate from government. Our constitution also clearly states this. I am a born again Christian. I love the Savior. This behavior on the part of a small number of churches is inappropriate and damaging.

  • af

    There are two pressures on this issue which don’t seem amenable to resolution.Taxation by the government is more than just a way of stealing … I mean obtaining money, it’s also a way of exerting control.Taxing the churches would mean government control of the churches.On the other hand some screaming pastor telling his flock that they have to vote for a particular candidate or they’ll end up roasting for eternity … this pastor has undue influence over his sheep. In fact his one-man-one-vote status is corrupted by doing this.Why should religious leaders get to vote more than once like this? Why should we allow them to pick our representatives for us? These representatives will be told without doubt that they owe their position to these religious mob bosses, rather than to we the voter … these representatives vote for our taxes … Taxation Without Representation is the resultI’d rather have the government tax the churches than have religious mob bosses taxing me.

  • thebob.bob

    If people want to have spirituality clubs (churches, synagogues, mosques, covens, etc.) they’re welcome to it. Why should land owning, politically active, businesses not pay taxes like everyone else? Because they claim some special relationship to an imaginary being with magical, supernatural powers? Let them say what ever they want. I don’t want to subsidize it.

  • Jay Walsh

    Churches that are tax exempt should not be preaching politics. Simple as that. 85% of Americans agree. If they dropped their tax exempt status then they can do as they wish. Youll never see that happen though.

  • hillhopper

    The arguments of Faith, Grace, and Works are scattered throughout the scriptures. Threaded through these is the Law. How then is Faith established? Grace, Works, Law?For Example: GAL 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. JAM 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? PRO 16:3 Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established. KI2 22:17 Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be kindled against this place, and shall not be quenched. ROM 3:27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. And Grace? GEN 6:8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

  • spewage

    hillhopper you have been reported for making offensive comments. You’re as bad as JJ, nobody wants to read your insanity here, it takes up too much vertical space

  • Fred

    A religious leader can say whatever they want from the pulpit, they have and deserve the same freedom of speech as anyone else. What they don’t deserve is a tax exempt subsidy to endorse a candidate. If you take the government’s money you accept the government rules. Why should public tax money, and a tax exemption has the same effect as a tax credit, to support organizations that endorse candidates? Say what you want, just don’t expect me to pay for it.

  • Michael Youra

    Apparently some contemporary writers have forgotten the Inquisition.Wait is that the call for Fatwah?

  • SuznAZ

    This initiative is purely about politics…and conservative politics at that. You won’t find progressive churches participating nor will you find participating ministers espousing liberal candidates, issues or views. But then, progressive churches teach each person to think for themself not follow the dictates of a minister. May these congregations’ eyes be opened to this propagandizing in the name of God. Shame on those who participate.

  • ChuckB

    I don’t think pastors are forbidden from taking political positions on candidates; however, if they do it from the pulpit, i.e., in the name of their church, they lose their tax exempt status. This is as it should be. If they inject themselves into worldly affairs, they should pay the worldly price. The exemption comes from their position as spiritual institutions, and, regardless of what they say, there is nothing spiritual about politics. The candidate that wins is the one who spins the truth the best (lies the best) for the audience, i.e., the voters. If these pastors truly trust in God they would understand that time spent intruding into politics is time taken away from delivering God’s message. There is only one kingdom that matters, and it is not of this world. Satan is involved in the affairs of all governments, whatever its doctrine. No government of man based on the teachings of Jesus will survive; to be successful, a government must apply the tenets of Machiavelli, as set forth in “The Prince.” No earthly government will be without sin until Christ comes in his Glory to institute His rule on Earth. Pastors getting involved in politics are doing the Devil’s work, not God’s; let them pay taxes.

  • Cletus

    I’m tired of snake oil salesmen of all stripes getting tax exemptions and then complaining like their under the yoke of extreme oppresion. Let them be given the choice between advocacy and the tax breaks. I know which one they’d choose.

  • Robert

    Churches are businesses in every meaningful respect. While I certainly will defend anyone’s right to believe whatever unsubstantiated hogwash they wish, I resent the fact that these massively profitable organizations get a free ride at the expense of working people who don’t share their beliefs. Tax them all, or tax none of us.

  • david koresh

    A Jim Jones or a David Koresh moves into your congressional district with his flock of robots and puts up one of his own freaks for representative.Suddenly Jim Jones is calling the shots in your district.This kind of thing, this becoming a robot in such an organization, it doesn’t happen to people who are not religious. It may not happen to you my fellow christian citizens, but it never happens to people who are not religious.Why do you think we really don’t trust your ability to discern when this is happening?

  • Clint Buck

    Amendment # 1.

  • Farnaz

    Clint Buck: Plain as day. When do we get our money back?

  • dover

    Remember what happened in Dover PA a few years back, when several creationists infiltrated the school board and forced their religion into the science classroom.It is not in the nature of the religious human to compromise. Democracy is a compromise. Now religious personnel for the most part are able to compromise on the things which we need agreement on just to be able to run the traffic lights … But how are we outside the religion, outside the particular church to know if the pastor is telling his flock to vote for Joe Putz … and what if Joe Putz is buying the pastor’s vote?Suddenly our district is being represented by Joe Putz, a man buying votes from the religious community. How is this representative government?Religious personnel also need tokens of faith to exercise. The pastor brings up a particular subject that isn’t of religious concern normally and turns it into a moral issue. Suddenly that activity is banned, made illegal, taxed and penalized with jail time .. who knows!I do not trust religious people to be able to stop their pastor from doing this, even if they themselves know it’s being done to them – and to the rest of us.

  • FIRST THINGS FIRST

    FIRST THINGS FIRST

  • Anonymous

    Clint Buck wrote:Amendment # 1.Looks plain to me.Yup, it’s plain as day, nothing about a tax exemption there. Jesus can pay up.

  • Orf

    I want to take up where Dover left off.Pastors and preachers and what have you, like anybody else they are going to me more inclined than not to vote for their own kind. With their unfettered power over their flock they are “more equal” than the single voter.How long will it take before some of these people as were seen in Dover begin dishonestly infiltrating our public organizations with their christianist doctrines?Hmmm, it seems I forgot to mention Monica Goodling here didn’t I? Only right wing christian republicans need apply.

  • 2Late4god

    “Preachers” are probably the most ignorant people in society. They not only buy into the religious myths but try to indoctrinate others into the insanity. They have no right to espouse their political views anywhere–just as we would not allow other mentally challenged individuals to speak about serious issues. They only right they have, until the Constitution can be amended, is the right to practice their absurd religions. The alliance defense fund is a sham organization with a goal towards theocracy.

  • Farnaz

    Speaking of Dover’s comments, I found this highly relevant report just posted on Jacques B.’s thread:Leslie Kern: Dear Dr. Berlinerblau:My name is Leslie Kern. I was the architect of the initiative against the ADF’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday – and of two complaints that were filed in 2006 against the World Harvest Church and the Fairfield Christian Church – the two Ohio churches that handed an Electoral College victory to GW Bush in 2004 through their introduction of State Ballot Issue 1 – banning gay marriage in the State of Ohio and turning out conservative voters in sufficient numbers to give the GOP the edge that it needed to win Ohio and secure the Bush White House for a second term. When the same two churches flagrantly endorsed the gubernatorial candidacy of Kenneth Blackwell in 2006, we filed our first two complaints. I wonder if I might chat with you, particularly about the implications of the document submitted to the Office of Professional Responsibility by Mort Caplin, former Commissioner, Cono Namorato, immediate past OPR Examiner, and Marc Owens, Former EO Director. It has the potential to cause lawyers at the ADF to be barred from practice before the IRS – a development that would be potentially devastating to the legal infrastructure of the religious right.My email is [email protected]. I share that address with the clergy spokesperson for our effort, my husband, Eric Williams.Thank you for your consideration of this request. And thank you very, very much for your thoughtful editorial – for the cogency, clarity and competence of your thinking and your writing.Best,- Leslie

  • brpubs

    The pulpit is indeed no place for government regulators — as long as it is also not a place for our tax dollars. Other nonprofit tax-exempt organizations cannot take political stances. Why should religious organizations be treated any differently? My understanding is that any religious organization that wants to take a political stance need merely relinquish its tax-exempt status to do so.

  • Slim2

    The Constitution has an Establishment Clause, but is silent about shutting them down. If not now, when?

  • Brian

    Will those ready to prosecute pastors who dare to endorse McCain be equally opposed to the Episcopal church leaders who announced their opposition to the anti gay marriage bill in California? Not likely! What clearer proof can there be that they are not motivated by nonpartisan principle as they claim, but only by the candidates and issues they support.

  • It’s All Down Hill From Here

    “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”

  • mego

    “Alliance Defense Fund’s Pulpit Initiative is to restore the right of pastors to speak freely from the pulpit without fear of punishment by the government for doing what churches do: speak on any number of cultural and societal issues from a biblical perspective.” Aww!!! How cute and innocent you made that sound. Every hear of separation of church and state? No? Fine Then. Your tax exemption status just go revoked.

  • Lou

    I think these ministers are totally wrong on the issue, but totally right on their willingness to commit civil disobedience for their beliefs.I hope they and their congregations shoulder the justice system penalties as cheerfully as those who did the same for civil rights and against war.We’ll see.

  • JMcIntosh

    Pastors should have the same rights to free speech as anyone else.

  • Joe Konn

    I agree with one proviso, if political choices are endorsed at the pulpit, then tax exempt status must be withdrawn. I sure hope the founding fathers (many of whom we deists) would not have given the exemption to further the religious beliefs of churches, but rather to see to it that churches had a reason to stay out of politics. If you are correct that Johnson and his contemporaries did not target churches, they did not exclude them either. I, for one, am not willing to yield tax exempt status to churches under any condition, but I am willing to endure the status quo so long as church leaders are not allowed to use the pulpit (and the inordinate influence on some citizens) to put forward a political agenda.

  • Lou

    “Brian: I see that you do not understand the law.Preachers can preach on any issue they please–it’s endorsements of specific politicians that get them in tax trouble.Why is that so hard to understand?

  • jimmy

    I hate these crazy right wing freaks but free speech is free speech

  • Tom

    The right of a pastor to speak her mind has never been in question. A pastor can tell anyone anywhere the candidates she supports, but to turn the pulpit into a podium is a violation of the pulpit. It’s not a pastor’s private domain; it belongs to the whole congregation, and surely, in these churches, there must be some diversity of thought and opinion, although such diversity has been systematically rooted out of most fundamentalist/evangelical congregations.I have been a pastor for 38 years and have enjoyed the freedom of the pulpit, but I have always rigorously protected the pulpit against me – the temptation to turn the pulpit into a personal podium.Go ahead and blog, or do it in an educational setting, but protect the pulpit from the mere opinion of a preacher – and all the claims in the world of scriptural warrant and truth cannot justify this cheap shot masquerading under the banner of freedom, when in those very churches, freedom of thought and expression is denied.

  • Fannie

    Pastors and the mega churches, and the little old churches should then be taxed like everyone else!

  • adfgov

    Good ! let ‘em! then take away their fukin’ tax-exempt status. They’ve been doing this all along anyway!

  • adfgov

    Ministers can feel free to endorse candidates all they want, but do do so is a violation of one of the PRIMARY reasons this country was created, to separate church and state. So, while they can exercise their right to free speech all they want, they cannot do it as a tax-exempt organization. Anyone claiming their losing tax exempt status because of their political endorsement either knows they are lying or is just uneducated.

  • roncee

    Freedom is not free Erik. If a church wishes to take a political stance it should pay for the priviledge. When the church pays it’s taxes like any other business entity it will enjoy the freedom to support any political candidate it chooses. By the way, the pulpit does not belong to the speaker, it belongs to the tax exempt church.

  • louise j

    “Amendment to the tax code passed by Congress in 1954 saying that charitable organizations known as 501(c)(3)’s, which accept tax-deductible contributions, cannot intervene in political campaigns. The legislation was intended to prevent nonprofit organizations from funneling money and resources to political candidates.”This is pretty clear, not a free speech issue at all. No one is saying you can exercise free speech, you just don’t get a free ride.

  • louise j

    that should have read you can’t exercise free speech, you just don’t get a free ride.

  • The Right Reverend tedster

    …And a religious self-righteous Cha Cha Cha to ya. Look folks, here’s the deal – there are no gods, (more’s the pity) so say what you want, when you want, get people to believe it and send you the cold hard for as long as you can ride that unicycle… and pay your taxes like all other profit centers in this great Capitalist land He hath made.

  • Mark

    It is all about timing. This ridiculous initiative isn’t really expected to succeed. Of course, separation of Church and State is sacrosanct.The real objective is to motivate the religious ultra-conservative faction to, once again, get out and vote on this single-issue topic. The real difficulty is trying to separate Truth from Spin. Perhaps, it is easier to be told who to vote for…

  • A reader

    Those who want to play can pay taxes. Including property tax, income tax, submit to ALL anti discrimination laws (you must hire perverts, tinker bell etc) and if you shuffle pedophile priests to new hunting grounds you get busted under the RICO law for running a pedophile sex ring.Organized crime such as helping criminals evade federal immigration laws is not covered under the tax exemptions.Various churches are probably sitting on billions of dollars of tax exempt property and they enjoy other tax exemptions such as sales tax . Lifting their tax exempt status would also cut down on donations (cash, real property, in-kind donations) — are very, very bad for the till.The fools pushing this issue.. might reconsider consequences of pushing the issue. Other Church leaders, you folks might want to call the IRS.. the tax exemption you save may be your own.

  • a_consumer

    Hey! get a load of We Jo ‘s post! Do you really want people with that intellect spouting off in public about who should be elected? I hope he can keep his (or her) tax-exempt status and I never have to scroll thru that crap again!

  • asd

    The Constitution of the United States guarantees the Freedom of Relegion. Religious institutions have the freedom to practice and preach virtually any belief. These religious organizations get every right granted idividuals and companies including the right to generate profits, invest in companies, and give political donations. Their sole restriction is to not endorse any particular political candidate. For this minor restriction they get tax free status. If churches want to endorse a candidate then they should give up tax free status like every other company and idividual in this country. It is simple: If we live in a country that has freedom of religion then why should someone of a one religion be forced pay to support an alternative religion?

  • Jay Johnson

    Churches and non-profit organizations enjoy a special privilege of not being required to pay many federal. state, and local taxes. Additionaly, the also receive the benefit of being able to receive donations that are also exempt from many federal, state, and local taxes. These two huge benefits come with the reasonable restriction that they do not engage in overt partisan political endorsements.If the government were to permit overt political endorsements, then it would be the same as financially supporting the particular moral, ethical, and political beliefs of the organizations. That behavior is prohibited by the Constitution. The restriction is not inconsistent with the free speech provisions of the Constitution in that if the voice of the organization wishes to engage in overt poitical endorsements, then they can be treated the same as individual citizens and choose to be subject to the same taxes.The thought that a person should enjoy a special tax advantage because they are a minister, labor union leader, or photography society president is inconsistent with the idea that all voters opinions and choices are equally valid at the ballot box or soap box.From a practical standpoint, the limitation is extremely narrow, it only restricts the overt endorsement of a candidate. If an organization is unable to express their opinion, provide guidance, or communicate their beliefs without over political endorsement, then they should find better communicators for their organization.

  • captainkona

    The separation of church and state is the law of this land. Is that clear?Now, do what Jesus said and respect the immediate authority. Hypocrite.

  • Brian Miller

    Of course, the IRS isn’t telling pastors that they may not preach politics from the pulpit.They’re simply telling them that if they make the voluntary choice to do so, they have to pay taxes just like every other voluntarily political organization out there.If a preacher endorses a candidate from the pulpit, no “enforcement agent of the government” is going to tell him that he cannot do so — the government will simply send his church a revised tax bill taxing him the same way any other politically-active organization would be taxed.In reality, ADF isn’t concerned about censorship — it’s demanding special rights… the right to avoid paying taxes like an apolitical organization, but to act like a political organization. All the talk of “censorship” is phony posturing.

  • chris yarnell

    These churches are free to say what they want at an time. All they have to do is give up their tax exempt status. They don’t get to have it both ways, sorry.

  • Anonymous

    The pulpit it also no place for political speech. Stop politicizing churches and respect the First Amendment! The single greatest threat to church-state separation in America is the Religious Right. Read more at American’s United for Separation of Church and State

  • Vale

    Let em talk politics. Religion shouldn’t be tax exempt anyway.Just dump the exemptions, make all the fat cat ripoff artists pay up like everyone else, and let them spew the trash they’re going to spew anyway. All the exemptions do is make idiots like Sharpton/Jackson rich while they meddle in things and fleece the poor.

  • R in Colorado

    Churches are exempt from all state, federal and local property taxes. This tax subsidy should not be extended to any church that choses to become a political organization. It does not matter how one dresses the issue up; the bottom line is that the church buildings and property ARE being subsidized by the greater community paying taxes around them for services like roads, fire protection, police protection, clean water and so on. A church is free to endorse candidates; just don’t ask me and other taxpayers to subsidize their properties and make them tax exempt while they are acting like a branch of the democratic and republican parties!

  • David E. Connolly, Jr.

    That’s great. Take away their tax exempt status. These “ministries” are all businesses, after all. Practically all the ministers, and priests I know drive nice, expensive cars, and have free meals, and lodging, some with maids, and gardeners. These ministers really can’t keep it in anymore, and even though it is not necessary, they are in effect, telling their congregations that not voting for Barack Obama is a sin. Catholic priests are not allowed to talk politics in the pulpit, and aside from distasteful rogue priests like Michael Pfleger, most, in my experience, just talk doctrine, and emphasize the churches position on issues, which is the way it really should be. It just isn’t right to use your influence as a spiritual guide to influence elections.

  • Michael Harley

    Let ‘em speak all they want. It’s some of the best comedy in a foreign language we have ever heard. One requirement, you preacher schumcks have to pay taxes just like the rest of on heathtens. Oh, well then ……

  • culture war

    Considering the behavior of the creationists in Dover, and Kansas, and the efforts of this ADF group, and Monica Goodling and her type – exactly who is it that declared the culture war, who is it that is waging it …The ADF attempt to permit political proselytizing in the church is merely another tactic in the battle plan of the christian right to take over our country. It’s not just the dominionists, it’s Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell (thank god he’s dead), James Kennedy, James Dobson … and these are just the holy warriors we know about.How many of them are in operation in your community? How many of them have taken over your local political party? How many of them are going out of their way to take over your school board, the management of your library, your city council, your law enforcement?It’s not just the un-believer’s freedom at stake here, it’s not just keeping the country our ancestors and forefathers fought to give us. If you are a believer who does not agree with their form of christianity, how long do you think you’ll be able to practice your religious freedom if these people take over?It’s not the unbelievers who threaten your religious freedom, it is these people. And watch out for a backlash against religion in general if you do not separate yourself from them in the mind of the public.

  • Chicago Jim

    Preachers have and always have had the right to speak freely when standing before the lecturn. I have listened to so much balderdash in my life that it sickens me. Certainly the freedom of speech of the preachers I’ve known was never restricted. It’s the much adored tax exemption that Mr. Stanley is concerned about. I believe that all churches should be taxed in exactly the same way as the rest of us. Then a preacher’s words would not be able to affect the status of a church’s tax exemption. He/she would be totally free to endorse any incompetent “pro life” “anti-homosexual” “racist” political candidate or idea that comes along.

  • Gasmonkey

    No. Wrong. If a church accepts a tax-exempt status, it must abide by the rules applicable to those institutions. That includes staying OUT of partisan politics. If the minister wants all his free speech rights, including politics from the pulpit, then ACT like every other citizen and pay taxes on your enterprise. If you want that tax-free status, obey the RULES that you KNEW were in place from the beginning. Stay away from partisan politics and stick to religious dogma.

  • steven e medlock

    A so-called Christian group that cannot tell the truth about it’s mission to inject politics into religion and maintain tax-exempt status. Why am I not surprised?

  • Jeff

    Mr. Stanley simply has his facts wrong or is intentionally misrepresenting the truth. The issue is not whether one has free speech on the pulpit. The issue is whether houses of worship can use government funds while they engage in partisan politics. And the Constitutiona and case law and regulations are clear on this issue- it is a violation of the 1st amendment for government money to be used to endorse religion. That is not an interpretation of the 1st amendment – that is the express language of the 1st amendment.Moreover, several of the “facts’ stated by Mr. Stanley are false. Nobody has ever been put in jail or fined for quoting scripture from the pulpit. Nothing in the free speech, free exercise or establishment clauses of the Constitution allows members of the clergy or church spokespersons to benefit from tax exempt status and engage in partisan politics. Where is the language Mr. Stanley is referring to when he says that houses of worship have been “Constitutionally guaranteed” such freedom since the founding of our nation? Answer: nowhere in the Constitution does it even address this issue.Nobody is limiting the free speech of anybody. Nobody has to take tax money from the American people in the form of tax-exemption. If you want tax-exemption, then follow the 1st Amendments proscription on mixing religion and government. Off the pulpit, as an individual voter not representing a church, you can still say whatever you want and endorse candidates. The ADF should stop misleading the public and start addressing the immorality of pushing their religious views on the rest of the public.

  • Fate

    The 16th Amendment states:Note that there is no provision for excluding churches or religious institutions. The IRS CAN collect taxes on churches or “whatever source”. But as you indicate in the article, Lyndon Johnson offered section 501c3 of the tax code to eliminate taxes on churches IF they stay out of politics. He did so to silence critics from that part of society as you say. It was a carrot offered for silence, a carrot people make a choice to accept or decline.But section 501c3 is a status churches add on themselves. It is not imposed by the government. If your church claims a section 501c3 status, then it agrees to comply with that IRS statute and remain outside politics.But it seems you want it both ways. You want the tax exempt status 501c3 brings but not give up the silence on politics it requires. Your argument is pure fantasy. If you want complete free speech, then speak freely, no one is stopping you, but you will have to pay taxes like everyone else. Your claim that you are somehow being silenced is insulting and assumes the reader to be stupid.

  • Donaldd

    AMEN!

  • Rob Levine

    This is pure bull – if the preachers want to get involved in politics they could do it easily – just give up their *special* tax status – and pay taxes like the rest of us. Then they can say whatever they want.

  • Fake-Name-Guy

    Have these black-coated parasites paid their taxes yet? No? Then, shut up!

  • Alivo

    This piece by Erik Stanley is inaccurate and disingenuous. Pastors already have the right to speak freely about issues from the pulpit. My minister speaks freely about all manner of issues, and we do not fear the IRS for this. Federal law does NOT prohibit either ministers or churches from speaking out on issues. I am active in my church, and we speak out on issues all the time. We gather petition signatures to place initiatives on the state ballot. We as a church pass resolutions on social issues. We have passed a resolution against torture, a resolution against the death penalty, a resolution calling for an end to the genocide in Darfur. None of these runs afoul of current federal law. Federal law prohibits non-profit organizations with tax exempt status from endorsing candidates. That is the real issue. Erik Stanley is not telling the truth is this piece of his. He needs to be called on his misrepresentation of the law.Federal law does not prohibit ministers from speaking their minds. Federal law does prohibit non-profit organizations that have tax exempt status from endorsing candidates. A minister who endorses a candidate from the pulpit is speaking for the church, and thus is in violation of current federal law governing non-profits. If Mr. Stanley wants churches to endorse candidates, then they can do that. They just have to pay taxes like everyone else if they do. Mr. Stanley’s churches cannot have their cake and eat it too. They cannot, and they should not, get out of paying taxes while endorsing candidates for public office. My church is happy with the current law. And we are not going to break the law, as Mr. Stanley’s organization has irresponsibly called on churches to do.

  • Just my opinion

    Rob Levine stated: At what point does any organization move from being a charity into a political organization and thus, lose its tax-exempt status?

  • Just my opinion.

    BTW, a point of clarity.Individual preachers, imans, priests, rabbis and so on do pay taxes on their salaries and other earnings; it is the church organizations that are tax exempt. Ministers are considered ‘self-employed’ by the tax laws and must pay both halves of SS and all taxes that others do with one exception. If they receive a housing allowance, they are exempt from some federal tax if their house is used ‘officially’ in their ministry.Ministers, with the exception of rabbis, are among the lowest paid professionals given the level of education required.

  • Farnaz

    Just My Opinion:”Ministers, with the exception of rabbis, are among the lowest paid professionals given the level of education required”Rerence please. What is the source of this information?

  • Hillman

    It’s not just tax benefits that churches enjoy. Here in DC churches also enjoy zoning benefits. You can literally build or open a church anywhere, regardless of it’s impact on neighbors.Many (but not all) in DC have a long history of being bad neighbors. Usually it’s parking – many churchgoers think it’s their right to double park and block in residents. You may think this is no big deal until you go out and find that you can’t move your car for hours when you need it.To me it’s an attitude problem. Many in the religious community seem to have this idea that they are superior to the rest of society, that society must always bend to their will, even on something as mundane as parking regulations.

  • Joey

    Excellent, then they have no problem paying taxes.

  • Anonymous

    Farnaz asked: ========

  • steven jamar

    mendacious in the extreme. it is not about just pulpit speech — or, to the extent that is the narrow bit being pushed now, it is, to use the biblical terminology, the nose of the camel.

  • Fate

    Just my opinion wrote: “Would you extend that [tax exempt status] to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Habitat for Humanity and other non-profits that lobby politically? Do they lose their tax-exempt status, too? Or is it just religious organizations?”Its all 501 organizations that claim they are charities or non-profits and additionally claim 501c3 status making them tax exempt. Read the tax code.Just my opinion wrote: “At what point does any organization move from being a charity into a political organization and thus, lose its tax-exempt status?”When it endorces a candidate. Issues are not covered. Planned parenthood can talk about pro-choice and churches can talk pro-life and both claim the tax exemption. Neither can endorce a candidate and keep the exemption though. Its pretty simple really, until people like Erik Stanley claim their right to free speech AND tax exemption are being violated, as though the tax exemption is something he has a constitutionally guaranteed right to. He does not.Stanley said there is nothing in the Constitution allowing the suppression of free speech of pastors. That is a red herring. What he fails to say is that the 16th Amendment ALLOWS TAXING OF CHURCHES whether they endorce candidates or not. Its the IRS tax code and specifically section 501c3 that allows charities to exempt themselves from taxation IF they do not endorce candidates. Churches and other organizations do not have to abide by this. They can endorce candidates and pay taxes, and many do. It is Mr. Stanley who is “censoring” himself in order to obtain a tax exemption. But he does not state it quite that way, does he? All he has to do is pay taxes and thus remove himself from this “burden”, but for some reason he thinks he is somehow entitled to a tax exemption. He is not, not under the constitution and not under the law, unless he claims the exemption and agrees not to endorce a candidate. If he feels his rights are being violated, the violation is self inflicted.

  • dknight

    There is no impediments to speaking in regards to a particular political party, canditate or philosophy,

  • Crazy Methodist?

    Question for all of you crying foul over this initiative…Will Trinity United Church of Christ, pastored by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, also be giving up its tax-exempt status based on previous political rants from its pastor and other noted guest speakers [Michael Flegler]?Just asking…

  • MKoch

    What the author really wants here is the ability to tell or imply that God wants you to vote for one candidate or another, or that you’ll go to Hell for voting for the opposition. That’s the only thing at stake here. It’s a blatant attempt for one religion to dominate the political sphere.And as it’s been pointed out, he can do that anytime he wants, he simply has to give up his Church’s tax exempt status. Churches take in money and own property and are not taxed for it.

  • Mickey

    >>They have no right to espouse their political views anywhere–just as we would not allow other mentally challenged individuals to speak about serious issues.LOL! How so? McCain and Obama run their stupid yaps on a daily basis without being “allowed”.

  • Just my opinion

    Fate:Shouldn’t there be some consistency?BTW, I have read the tax code.

  • Just my opinion

    Some typosmea maxima culpa – I will proof read next time

  • Fate

    Crazy Methodist asked: “Will Trinity United Church of Christ, pastored by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, also be giving up its tax-exempt status based on previous political rants from its pastor and other noted guest speakers [Michael Flegler]?”If a candidate was endorced for office then they can be investigated and their exemption revoked.Many here are mixing up endorcing candidates and speaking out on issues. The tax exemption only refers to endorcing candidates. The NRA can promote gun ownership and can even make a list of politicians who have voted their way, but they cannot endorce a candidate. You have 501 organizations endorcing political positions, NRA, Planned Parenthood, Catholic Church, etc. You can talk about whatever you like. Its members can vote. But the group cannot endorce a candidate and get involved in election politics. So I’m not sure what Mr. Stanley is arguing about. He pretty much can say what he wants from the pulpit about abortion, the death penalty, Wall Street bailouts, anything. But he cannot say he endorces a candidate or organize his church to raise funds for a candidate AND claim the exemption. If he feels he should be able to do this, well he can, all he has to do is unclaim the exemption and pay taxes. His whining reminds me of a child who, when told he will only get a dessert if he eats all his food, decides he doesn’t want to eat all the food and thinks he should be allowed to get the dessert as well. Who raised Erik Stanley anyway? His arguments would not get past a junior high school civics teacher.

  • Mickey

    >>We don’t have time or patience to coddle religion in any important sphere any longer.I’m losing sleep over this, alright. Thankfully we have time, patience, and $700 billion to coddle Wall Street, among other unimportant spherical issues.

  • Anonymous

    As the tax code reads, there are churches all over our great land that are in violation – currently and in the past. This is nothing new, and certainly is not exclusive to this particular initiative.Why didn’t our “free press” bring any of this up when Jeremiah Wright or “Father Flegler” were spewing their propaganda from the pulpit over the summer? Why doesn’t the “free press” investigate the predominantly African-American churches that bus members to the polls on election day (don’t tell me there is no influence on the vote…)?People – please wake up and demand that our “media” and “journalists” ask questions on BOTH sides of the issues!!!Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes. Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.

  • QuietusMaximus

    The argument is mischaracterized of course. Government doesn’t dictate what pastors may say in his or her own pulpit, only what it will cost them if they disregard the rules that govern their status as tax exempt entities. It’s quite simple – Play politics, pay the price.

  • Mickey

    Seems to me that all these fake pastors and Christians could just preface their remarks with “Obama (or McCain, or whatever other lost fool)is an agent of Satan and here is the Scripture to prove it.” Then the election becomes a religious issue and the speech is exempt. Ask any politician…damning the opposition is always more effective than endorsing yourself.

  • Laughing

    This isn’t censorship, and they know it. No one ever said they couln’t endorse politicians or say what they wanted. They are given a special break in taxes in return for being a non-devisive, positive force in our society. Once they endorse a candidate, they lose this privelage. There is no free speech issue here. Many argue the privelage itself is unfair, and if these boneheads aren’t careful they may lose the gift the government gives them.

  • Fate

    Just my opinion wrote: “Fate:You are missing my point. I’m sorry that I was unclear. These organizations are already endorsing candidates. The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, AARP and others actively endorse candidates and lobby for government funding. Why is it that they can do that, but in your mind churches cannot?”Its probably due to them being 501c4 organizations and not 501c3, which are tax exempt but donors cannot deduct their donations, like you can with 501c3 organizations. Try to deduct your donation to the ACLU or NRA for example. But I don’t think a church can be a 501c4 organization because there are other restrictions, like membership limits. But what happens is an organization will split up into multiple organizations each with a different mission, and exemption, and thus maximize both the lobbying/endorcements and maximize the exemptions.Just my opinion wrote: “What about Labor Unions and Trade Associations (501c(6) if you’re wondering) – why can they active endorse a candidate and not lose tax exempt status, and yet churches cannot? I don’t even get me started on 527′s…. LOL”Different tax code. Union memberships are just that, memberships, and the membership fees are not tax deductable which church donations/fees are. Just my opinion wrote: “Shouldn’t there be some consistency?”There is. You are mixing up different parts of the tax code and saying they should all be the same. There a reason they have different numbers. Do you want churches and Planned Parenthood to be under the same tax code? How about the NRA and a synagogue? How about AFL-CIO and the Mormans?Just my opinion wrote: “BTW, I have read the tax code. Are you in favor of removing the tax exempt status from an 501/527 organization that endorses a candidate?”I’m in favor of the current tax code, which I believe has struck a delicate balance between church/state separation, non-profit encouragement, and charitable giving as being good for society. What Mr. Stanley is promoting is to unbalance that so he can get the maximum benefit. He needs to understand that the tax codes act as both incentive and disincentive for certain social activity. He seems to only want incentives. Having pastors endorcing candidates from the pulpit as a requirement from God is something I hope to never see. But if he wants to do that then Mr. Stanley is free to get rid of the exemption that Mr. Stanley claims.Lets not get into 527s. That’s a good topic for another blog but would just muddy the waters here, where 501c is being discussed.

  • Lawrence Derasmo

    Hey, no problem. If churches agree to give up tax-exempt status, there would be no gray areas, and no worry about censoring…self-censoring, governemental or other.

  • Rousseau

    Just my opinion:Fate is correct. I cannot deduct my contributions to the ACLU. I can deduct my contributions to the Wilderness Society but not to its sister political lobbying organization.I founded and operated a small, non-profit theatre. We were 501c(3) and were absolutely prohibited from endorsing or assisting candidates.

  • Fate

    Crazy Methodist wrote: “My point is this – the tax code is clear, and this initiative is in violation.”Erik Stanley’s initiative? I completely agree.Crazy Methodist wrote: “However, if you’re going to demand that pastors “pay to play politics” by relenquishing their church’s 501(c)(3) status, then where were all of you earlier in the summer when Wright violated the same code?”How did Wright violate the rules of the exemption? Did he get involved in campaigns or endorse candidates? And if so, explain how it was different from what Graham and others have done on the conservative side. Evangelicals are very close to violating their status but they have been careful to not step over the line. How did Wright step over the line? How did Wright step over a line Evangelicals have not?As for propaganda, anything said in a church is by definition propaganda. Whether its abortion, death penalty, human rights or domestic eavesdropping, the church can tell us about its morality, the sin for doing it, etc. But they cannot say you should vote for this candidate or that candidate nor collect funds for a candidate. But propaganda – its everywhere in every church. Wright can say America is bad. He can say slavery dooms America. He can say America should be destroyed. He can also say abortion doctors will go to hell, candidates that support the death penalty will suffer an eternity in hadies, etc. None of this violates the exemption. If it did, no church would be able to have the extention.

  • sparky

    Yank their exemptions and then we’ll see how many of these “evangelical churches” stick around.This is the best thing the IRS can do for the rest of us.

  • Dean

    From my perspective, noone is telling any preacher that he can’t talk about politics at the pulpit. What the IRS is saying is that if you do, you become a political affiliation, and therefore you shouldn’t receive tax-exemption for being a church. Take away the tax-exemption, and all those ‘tithe’ dollars are no longer tax-exempt from the church’s flock.Any state can make their drinking age less than 21, but if you do, you lose federal funding for roads and highways that the state will have to incur through higher taxes.I personally don’t believe that any pastor, preacher or priest should talk about anything other than the Bible when they are on the pulpit. Since they do talk about other things, I stopped going.Ever notice there are more people acting like me then there are acting like you? Think that maybe…. just maybe…. we aren’t the problem?

  • alivo

    Erik Stanley writes: “No government agency should decide what a pastor can or cannot say from his pulpit, even if it’s about candidates and elections.”My response: No government agency is doing that, Mr. Stanley. The government is saying that if you want to endorse a candidate as a minister representing a church, then the church doesn’t get the privilege of being tax exempt. The rule applies to all non-profit organizations with tax exempt status. Ministers and their churches can endorse candidates if they pay their taxes. If they want the privilege of a tax exemption, then they can’t endorse candidates. But they can speak out on issues all they want.As a person of faith who works on behalf of issues through my church, I think the current law is fair to everyone.

  • Erik Rensberger

    Indeed, ministers should have the same freedom of speech guaranteed to every American to speak their conscience with regard to politics and political candidates. I ask only that they not ask me to pay for it by subsidizing them with my taxes. Remove church tax exemptions, and let churches participate fully in the political process, with their opinions and their dollars!

  • Paganplace

    Oh, nonsense. The government can’t subsidize partisan politics in that way. Shall we say ‘Let us pray’ in all our campaign headquarters at the start of a work day and exempt people from taxes? (I know it gets pretty close to that for certain candidates, anyway.) Lest we forget, a big part of these regulations is to *protect religion* from these kinds of temptations to corruption. A lot of conservative churches can seem to be party hacks without saying names overtly, as it is. Shall we start counting you under campaign finance laws?

  • writinron

    It seems that the easiest answer would be to do away with the tax-exemption altogether. No exemption– no problem. Say what you want and pay what you owe like everyone else.

  • tokalion

    The far right wing fringe religious groups love to create ‘straw man issues’. They will go so far as to kick dirt in someone’s face, then place their hands across their own face crying, ‘we are being persecuted for the sake of Christ’ when the victim retaliates. Similarly, the government does not and never will enfringe on the rights of churchs/individuals to say/do what they want. You cant’ receive a tax exempt status if you use a religious forum as a political venue. But, alas…we will see the straw man…’we are being persecuted for the sake of Christ’…stick his head up when the IRS says, ‘okay..no more tax exempt status for you’.

  • Larry Linn

    Please G*d, I pray that you use your power to allow the houses of worship express political endorsements based upon what you tell the religious leaders in personal visions. I am sure that if they want to participate in elections, and that they will be willing to pay taxes like other businesses and other taxpayers. As I pray to thee, please tell me why you inflated your son to 800 to 900 feet, had him tell a television evangelical that he had to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to find a cure for cancer? Lord, since you are G*d, would it not have bee easier to just tell this Evangelist the cure?

  • Rick Wingrove

    Any pastor in any church can endorse anyone they want. It is a lie to suggest that the government is going into churches and censoring sermons. However, there is a system by which charitable or educational institutions – churches and many other organizations such as American Atheists – can sign up for a special tax exemption for their charitable or educational work. This is a special privilege and its adoption carries certain constraints but is entirely voluntary. There is a provision, which they know going in, that “charitable or educational” excludes partisan politics. There is different provision for political organizations which prevents them from using a tax exemption to promote partisan politics.Again, their participation in the 501(c)3 classification is 100% voluntary. So is their participation in partisan politics for which no one gets a free ride on the tax dollars of citizens who disagree with their politics. What could possibly be fairer than that?

  • Kert

    I would like to put out a situation that I feel shows why taxing churches that support a political candidate is wrong. I would like to hear if anyone has anything to say about it.Let’s say we have Candidate A and he is running for office. He runs on the platform that he wants to create laws that will restrict the church’s ability to preach what it wants because he believes churches use their influence for evil. He has every right to hold his beliefs and run for office with them.Under this law, the church can’t speak against the candidate or endorse the opponent. They may not be defenseless but they have many obstacles to overcome. They can either not speak about the candidate that could hurt them or choose to add a huge expense, that would also hurt the church. Notice Politician A can speak against the Church without penalty but the Church can not speak against the Politician without Penalty. I would say this shows the lack of freedom of speak and a huge inconsistancy. Repealing this law would end this.Now I’m not for the widespread endorsement of candidates by Churches, but there are some circumstances where it is justified. The government should not be able to reduce a Churches influence through taxation.

  • Jim

    “Pastors should have the same rights to free speech as anyone else.”

  • Fate

    Kery wrote: “Now I’m not for the widespread endorsement of candidates by Churches, but there are some circumstances where it is justified. The government should not be able to reduce a Churches influence through taxation.”If any influence is being reduced it is being done on a voluntary basis by the church. And though a church could not come out and make an endorsement against the candidate, or for the opponent, the church is FREE to talk about the legislation, talk about the harm it would do, talk about alternatives and even take a stand as it has already done on the death penalty, abortion, and many many other issues. It just can’t endorse or politic for a candidate.If your scenario were actually possible then, say the government deciding that abortion should be legal would, under your scenario, mean abortion could not be discussed by churches. But it is, and by many 501c3 organizations on both sides of the issue. In other words, your scenario would not play out as you describe. All the church could NOT do is get into the politics of the campaign nor endorse anyone, but issues are fair game and could be discussed and the church could take a stand. It would then be up to the church’s members as to who they freely vote for, not the church using its significant influence to tell them who to vote for. So there is NO reason for a church to keep its exemption AND politic. I actually find it morally wrong. Give unto Ceasar, and all that…

  • The Rev. Kevin D. Bean

    The separation of Church and State as it were does not separate faith communities from the public arena. Faith, of course, is personal, but it is not private; and neither Judaism nor Christianity – or any other faith tradition – can be fully, spiritually renewing or redemptive without being socially responsible. Our biblical faith states that God is One and God is sovereign – Sovereign of all creation, Sovereign of our personal and family lives, and the Sovereign of society and all its institutions, be they social, political, economic as well as religious. The role of communities of faith is: to call attention to the ethical dimensions of all issues; to keep alive theologically informed values as a norm for social, economic and political life; and to point out the demands of our faith for a just transformation of society. Having said this, we need to remind ourselves that as we attempt to apply spiritual values to our public life, that our faith tradition is not about imposing sectarian doctrines on others’ lives. Nor is it about becoming a religious interest group or single-issue voting block. In fact, religious communities – as communities of conscience within our pluralistic public arena – are called to offer an alternative to ideological religion (whether from right, left or center). We are called to be value-driven but not ideological, political but not narrowly partisan, civil but not soft – and involved but not used.

  • Just my opinion

    FATE:Again, I didn’t make myself as clear as I’d like to have. We are in the ballpark of fruit, but it is still apples and oranges.You are discussing what the law ‘is’ – and you are 100% correct. I am discussing what I believe the law ‘ought to be’ because of the way that it is currently enforced (or not enforced) and how there are loopholes (several of which you yourself alude to).As it stands, the tax law for non-profits and is blurred by the spectre of government wanting to stay out of religion. My first post on this forum listed several reasons for this. Points 1 & 2 particularly apply.But as you yourself pointed out, there loopholes and I believe that the entire 501 tax code needs overhaul. Example: union workers in Alaska had their union ‘dues’ deducted pre-tax from their pay so that they didn’t pay tax on them. While they didn’t call them union dues, they were paid by the company to the union in the name of each union member working for the company. It has the same effect of being a tax deduction. And yet, the union is allowed to endorse candidates.The other side of that is how the laws are not enforced. If a church pastor does not endorse a candidate out loud, but allows that candidate to assume the pulpit, isn’t that defacto endorsement?

  • Fate

    Just My Opinion,There are many cases where laws are broken, bent, not upheld, etc. That does not make the laws bad. If someone bends these laws or ignores them, that’s what the courts are for. Making better laws will not make enforcement any better, but the courts will.You wrote: “The other side of that is how the laws are not enforced. If a church pastor does not endorse a candidate out loud, but allows that candidate to assume the pulpit, isn’t that defacto endorsement?”It might be, but it depends on circumstances and what is said. That’s where the courts come in. But from what I have read, the 501c laws make a complicated situation manageable. If enforcement is equally applied it seems like a good set of laws.

  • Response to Fate

    It is only voluntary if you believe imposing fines on someone is inconsequential. The government can impose a fine on church for performing one activety they don’t allow. They call it a tax, but logically it is a fine. It’s the same as going over the speed limit and getting a fine, only this fine is much bigger. The government controls your speach by imposing a fine if you say something they forbid. You can obviously disobey but this is generally unwise and restricting in other ways. All other similar organization who don’t say something forbidden, are not fined (or taxed).I can’t agree this agrees with the principal of free speech.

  • abby

    We attended a church in which we had many friends. The minister attempted to tell us how to vote.We left the church.When someone who tries to influence votes from the pulpit, the facility in which he/she preaches should be taxed. A religious person is entitled to express his/her opinion outside of church but not at the pulpit, not in church.Our faith shapes our worldview which influences are vote. We do not want our rector telling us how to vote.

  • Crazy Methodist?

    Fate:Great discussing this with you…Yes, I agree with you that Stanley’s initiative is in violation.However, I’ll have to respectfully disagree with your interpretation of ‘propaganda’ concerning Trinity United Church of Christ. I’ll quote guest speaker Rev. Mike Pfleger, who is speaking about Hilary Clinton and Sen. Obama…”I really believe that she just always thought, ‘This is mine. I’m Bill’s wife. I’m white, and this is mine. I just gotta get up and step into the plate.’ Then out of nowhere came, ‘Hey, I’m Barack Obama,’ and she said, ‘Oh, damn! Where did you come from? I’m white! I’m entitled! There’s a black man stealing my show!’” He then pretended to wipe tears from his face, a reference to Senator Clinton’s emotional speech before the New Hampshire primary, and added, “She wasn’t the only one crying. There was a whole lot of white people crying.”Again, quoting the code…”and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”How do you say that these and other similar comments (made by Rev. Wright, and which can easily be found) are not propaganda, by definition?I agree with you that this happens in ALL kinds of churches…perhaps it’s time to discontinue the exemption status altogether instead of policing this matter on an individual basis…Again, thanks for the civilized discussion.

  • Just my opinion

    To FATE:If the law has been broken, then yes, take legal action. But as the law currently stands, it encourages loopholes of the kind that you and I pointed out – not illegal, but certainly violating the intent of the law.I suspect that you will disagree with me, preferring the law as it stands, but on that I will respectfully disagree.

  • Cal

    Churches are free to say whatever they want about whomever they want…as long as they are willing to pay taxes like everyone else.The idea that you can build a 12 million dollar mega church with bowling allies, snack bars, orchestras and recreation centers and not pay a dime in taxes is already disgusting enough. Now churches want to be political parties to?

  • Mark

    It is all about timing. This ridiculous initiative isn’t really expected to succeed. Of course, separation of Church and State is sacrosanct.The real objective is to motivate the religious ultra-conservative faction to, once again, get out and vote on this single-issue topic. Make no mistake. The puppet-masters, which have used the religious right to usurp control of one of our political parties, are extremely adept at this kind of strategy.The real difficulty is trying to separate Truth from Spin. Perhaps, it is easier to be told who to vote for… ======================And yet, I can’t help responding to this subject itself. I once stood up in adult Sunday school and mildly chastized my priest for talking politics. He was way off base espousing real hatred for Jews. I was disgusted that this Priest would abuse his position of trust. Because that is the real substance of this issue: We expect the pastors/priests to interpret biblical teachings and give sermons on how to be more compassionate. That’s understood when you go to church. However, I doubt those who plan to preach politics from the pulpit have actually asked their congregation members for permission, first.I’ve seen other commentors say this has happened to them and they left the church. I say, stand up and speak out that you disagree. Tell them they can preach about the bible, but they should leave the politics outside. Don’t be sheep. If they plan to talk politics, it’s fair game to speak up and tell them you disagree.

  • Anonymous

    A thoughtful essay and very valid to the current discussion about what the pastor of Governor Palin may or may not say about the Bible from his pulpit.Jesus Christ drove away demons, and gave the power to His disciples to do the same. Christianity does believe in principalities and powers, namely evil that is of a spiritual nature. So Christian prayer involves also praying for deliverance from evil spiritual powers.Why such belief in a Pentecostal Church should suddenly become a presidential campaign issue is wierd. Tell the sceptics read the New Testament for the basis of such a belief.As long as Governor Palin does not go about trying to drive out demons from the political administration with Christian rituals performed on them by force, there is no reason why her pastor or any pastor should not pray that guidance from the Holy Spirit may accompany her political life.

  • Roy

    Lazy Gus Goose likes it when his pastor tells him how to vote. Gus doesn’t have to take the effort to think for himself.

  • burntnorton

    “Such agencies certainly cannot condition tax-exempt status–a status churches have always been constitutionally guaranteed since our founding–on the surrender of cherished First Amendment rights.”That’s simply a false statement. Churches are not constitutionally guaranteed tax exempt status and, more important to most churches (since most churches barely break even anyway), their donors are not entitled to a tax exemption for their donations. The good counselor can’t cite a single precedent for any of the assertions contained within this statement. Quite the reverse. The weight of precedent indicates that churches must obey laws of general applicability, including things like property taxes and building safety codes, unless the government graciously grants them an exemption.

  • Robert Rowley, Tucson, Arizona

    The complete fact of the matter is this. A 501 c3 religious tax exemption is not a right. It is something applied for and possibly granted. When a church applies for a 501 c3 status they go into it knowing what the rules are. Therefore, either accept the rules of that for which you are applying or do not have it. If you cannot agree to the rules of a 501c3 then you shall not have the exemption.IRS, please do your duty, uphold the law, and if these churches preach politics from the pulpit, PLEASE revoke their tax exempt status immediately!

  • usapdx

    WE THE PEOPLE MUST HAVE THE SEPERATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. FREEDOM OF SPEECH IN THE USA FOR CHURCH HAS A PRICE THAT WE AS AMERICANS PAY CALLED TAXES. YET CHURCH CAN SPEAKOUT WITHOUT BEING TAXED ONLY IF THEY HAVE THE OPPOSED VIEWED SPOKE DRICTLY AFTER THE CHURCH SPEAKS THERE OTHER WISE PAY YOUR TAX. A CHURCH THAT DOES NOT COMPLY WITH THE I.R.S. RULES ARE ALSO IN VIOLATION OF THE 7th AND 8th COMMANDMENTS AS WELL AS THE U.S.A. PRINCIPLE OF SEPERATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. PRATICE WHAT YOU PREACH.

  • joseph

    if this wackos wand be part of politics than they better pay taxes just like I do , using a church for political gain is obscene

  • Stacey

    This article is written as if being a non-profit org is part of the definition of church. It is not.

  • Rev. Hank Bates

    The pulpit is no place for politics. This clearly is an intention to turn churches into political action committees. Most ministers and churches would never go along with this. And any minister worthy of the title knows that a minister’s calling is to heal, prosper and to bless … and to lead their congregations to these things.

  • Chicago1

    Nonsense. They should all be stripped of their tax-exempt status. That too is ‘just some law we came up with’.I do not want to hear politics from the pulpit, left or right. I do not want to hear any pastor implying that anyone is less Christian, whether they be left or right. Christianity goes deeper than politics.Render unto Caesar. End of political discussion.

  • Seth Manapio

    I’m confused. Can’t any Pastor say anything from any church, provided that church is willing to pay taxes? Isn’t this really about wanting to have your cake and eat it to?

  • Robert Thomas

    I find it very interesting that protestants would lead such an initiative. They tend to be smaller congregations with limited ability to provide organized support for a candidate. As a Catholic, I realize the power of the pulpit and its organizing power. If protestant churches can openly back a candidate without fear of being taxed out of existence, then so can we. As Catholics are the largest religious body in America, we will become the automatic controller of the Presidency if these protestant churches get their way. I do not want this, but it will have to be done if the protestants succeed. The lessons of Medieval Europe are clear — breaking the rule of separation between Church guarantees only those who control both Church and State live free. The Catholic Church has the numbers and dollars to make sure whose philosophy will rewrite American Law in the 21st Century. No American Catholic I know seeks this, but we will reap its benefits.

  • John Charles Webb

    The ‘tax exempt’ status of churches is a contractual agreement. The flip side of the issue is when political organizations apply for tax-exempt status under the guise of being a ‘church’. The separation of church and state, under the IRS Tax Code, is a two-way street. Government does not interfere with religion and religion does not interfere with politics. What will happen when Fox News applies for tax-exempt status as a ‘church’ because it puts a daily religion column on its website? Voting is an individual right and one that is not to be seized by ‘religious’ leaders who are much closer to Judas that Christ. .

  • Fred

    When you all get as excited about all the deomcrats politic-ing in Black churches all over America AND hate “churches” like Jeremiah Wright’s, maybe we can start talking about what other Pastors say in their CHURCHES.

  • Briana

    If the pastors go ahead with their sermons endorsing a candidate and encouraging the church to vote a certain way, they should be more concerned about the backlash from the congregation who do not share their political views.

  • New Boston, NH

    No, actually the issue is whether or not pastors can endorse candidates from the pulpit. They can, of course, but hopefully, if they do, their churches will lose their tax-free status.You break it; you own it. Civil War era slave owners/racists/low information wannabes decided to test the rules and start a little war in the 1860s, and we know how well that turned out. And then there is George Bush (poster child for worst president and worst human being) who decided to start a vanity oil war, torture, secretly spy, and trash the Constitution. There may be war crimes trials waiting for even him.

  • Steve

    This is wrong. This is dangerous. This is a violation of our separation of church and state. If a pastor wants to use the pulpit to support a particular candidate, then he or she should be willing to give up the state’s tax exemption. It’s that simple. This doesn’t mean that they can’t discuss moral principles such as abortion, state sanctioned torture and murder, poverty, civil rights, etc. They just can’t endorse a candidate from the pulpit, if they also want to keep their tax exempt status.However, as a Christian, even if the church is willing to give up their tax exemption, this is a very unwise course of action. Christian churches should be about evangelizing the gospel, not promoting any particular candidate. I work with a lot of young people and have seen more and more young people turn away from religion to atheism and agnosticism. Christianity is losing the young, not just in the United States, but throughout the world. This is where they should be putting their attention, not these political pronouncements that do little or nothing for the betterment of humanity.

  • Charles

    Steve and everyone else who’s talking about endorsing political candidates:Did you even *read* the article?

  • Farnaz

    Let clergy say what they wish. Simply, remove the tax exemptions from institutions of organized religion.

  • Saul of Tarsus

    Nobody is telling anybody or any religious leader what to say or what not to say. Say anything you want. However, if you violate the tax code rules you are not entitled to tax exempt status. This is not about freedom of speech. It is about who is entitled to tax exempt status. Nobody is automatically entitled to that status. That status depends on the rules. Break the rules lose the status, but you still have the right to say anything that crosses your mind.

  • Enemy Of The State

    The ADF is all in favor of ministers promoting political views from the pulpit, as long as they are conservative views.You and I both know that as soon as liberal ministers start doing the same thing, the ADF will find some specious argument to use against it.The simplest solution – and maybe it isn’t the best, I don’t know – would be to repeal tax free status for all churches. Frankly, I never understood the rationale behind this loophole in the first place. Church finances, like all organizations, must be transparent and follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

  • Paul

    I think that the tax exempt status for Churches needs to be removed altogether. They, like so many other organizations have gotten too used to the tax payer picking up the tab. Pick up your own tab.

  • Paul

    I think that the tax exempt status for Churches needs to be removed altogether. They, like so many other organizations have gotten too used to the tax payer picking up the tab. Pick up your own tab.

  • steve boyington

    The issue is not preventing someone from expressing their opinion. Pastors are free to advocate for whomever they wish… outside of their religious teachings and sermons.I don’t believe that part of religious instruction includes which party to vote for. Sermons and teaching from the pulpit are religious instruction. When you make part of your religion instructing your followers who to vote for in no longer is religion. You wanna be a political advocacy group? Form one.

  • Sam Singleton Atheist Evangelist

    An Open Letter to America’s Pastors I’m Sam Singleton Atheist Evangelist and I’m writing this on Friday, September 25, 221 years to the day from the First Amendment’s passage by Congress. That same amendment not only proscribes the government from telling preachers what they can say from behind the pulpit, but also prohibits the establishment of an official state religion. (Note to theists: If there’s ever a state religion, it probably won’t be the one you have in mind.) I’ve always asked, what happens when the law of the land conflicts with god’s law? Not surprisingly, in cases like that, the law of the land gets trumped like an ace of hearts by a two of spades. Turns out preachers, being tight with God, know exactly which laws to blow off.

  • homesower

    Paul wrote: “I think that the tax exempt status for Churches needs to be removed altogether. They, like so many other organizations have gotten too used to the tax payer picking up the tab. Pick up your own tab.”In what way does their tax-exempt status equate to the taxpayers picking up the tab? If I give to my church, with my money, how is that coming from your pocket? Churches are tax exempt because the Supreme Court long ago said that “the power to tax is the power to destroy”. If the government gets into the business of taxing churches then they are passing laws that act to stifle religion. Here is what the first amendment says:”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”

  • homesower

    John Charles Webb wrote:”The ‘tax exempt’ status of churches is a contractual agreement.The flip side of the issue is when political organizations apply for tax-exempt status under the guise of being a ‘church’.The separation of church and state, under the IRS Tax Code, is a two-way street. Government does not interfere with religion and religion does not interfere with politics.”This is a contract? Only one side got to set the terms and conditions. Doesn’t sound like an agreement between equals to me. Your concept of separation of church and state is not a constitutional concept. There is nothing in the constitution preventing churches from getting involved in government. They have been heavily involved since before the Revolution. Many pastors led troops and encouraged their parishioners to support the revolt. They were the backbone of the abolitionist movement. Its only in the last 60 years that the government has wielded this “tax exempt” threat against the churches.I agree that it is unwise for churches to endorse candidates or parties, except where there are clear moral issues at stake, and even then they have to risk losing members. But sometimes the right thing to do is to take a stand. These pastors who endorsed candidates today did so to challenge this law, to get their day in court so they can strike down this unconstitutional monstrosity.

  • homesower

    Paganplace wrote:”Lest we forget, a big part of these regulations is to *protect religion* from these kinds of temptations to corruption.”The government is protecting religion from temptation? Then who is protecting government from temptation? You have the roles reversed

  • John

    If you wish to preach politics, then please stop taking Caesar’s money to do so. Simply reject 501 (c) 3 and pay your taxes like everyone else, and then I will fully support your right to unfettered speech. Just don’t ask me to pay for it.

  • Palgrave

    Who’s saying anything about Government censorship? That is a complete red herring. The issue is an ethical conflict of interest. How can a pastor, who is benefitting from a tax exemption, then promote a specific politics that supports his religious point of view? Now if the pastor doesn’t mind losing that exemption, then he can rant and rave all he wants. You just want him (or her) to have it both ways. The point is that the government’s support of a non-partisan group is supposed to be, well, non partisan. Are you going to allow me to write off my political contributions on my taxes? If so, then fine, let’s all share in this. Otherwise, let’s keep the Church and State separation intact.

  • Ben

    What logic from an attorney from a bottom tier law school…..There’s no censorship, just give up the tax-exempt status.

  • Rob

    I have no problem with preachers speaking their minds, on politics, witchcraft, abortion, poverty, whatever. I do have problems with the tax-free status of churches, in principle, and even more so now that mega-churches have morphed into mega-buck money makers. The government should leave churches alone – but also should not give them any favored treatment. And churches certainly cannot have it both ways.

  • Jane

    Reverend Ron Johnson, speaking to his congregation from the pulpit on September 28, 2008, the historic Sunday when 33 pastors challenged federal law: “We want people [who], when you prick them, they bleed the word of God.” I understand Johnson’s use of “people” to mean “leaders”. I understand “word of God” to mean “Biblical literality”. I understand Johnson’s meaning to be “I will encourage my congregants to vote in a way that will bring about theocracy in the United States of America”. And mark well that this movement of the 33 pastors is intended to bring about not just any old theocracy but a Christian Fundamentalist theocracy. The “word of God” as set forth in the Book of Leviticus would seem more like, say, a Jewish theocracy. Or does Reverend Johnson intend to give up shrimp and bacon?

  • Fate

    homesower wrote: “Its only in the last 60 years that the government has wielded this “tax exempt” threat against the churches.”"Threat”? That’s a big word. If I offered you $10,000/year to not talk about politics on WaPo blogs, am I limiting your free speech? Am I “threatening” you? And when you freely take the money is it MY fault that you now feel your freedoms are limited? Or are you a hypocrit, wanting both complete freedom and my money?homesower wrote: “I agree that it is unwise for churches to endorse candidates or parties, except where there are clear moral issues at stake, and even then they have to risk losing members.”Completely agree.homesower wrote: “But sometimes the right thing to do is to take a stand. These pastors who endorsed candidates today did so to challenge this law, to get their day in court so they can strike down this unconstitutional monstrosity.”And why is it unconstitutional? When the tax laws were created in 1913 under the 16th amemdment, no provision was made for churches, non-profits, etc to be automatically tax free. The 16th amendment says the US government has the power to tax anyone and anything. And the only history for not taxing churches was under British law where the state church of England could not be taxed. So unless you are promoting pre-revolutionary British law as a basis for exempting all churches, your unconstitutionality argument is hollow.It was the 1954 law that provided a tax exemption for non-profits and houses of worship IF they refrained from endorsing political candidates and parties. It did not say they could not talk about political issues. Abortion is talked about each sabbath across this nation, as is gay-marriage and many other politically charged issues. But if these 33 want to endorse political candidates they move from being houses of worship to being political movements and as such lose their exemption. I seriously doubt the supreme court, which is where the 33 want this to end up, will look at a law that has worked well for 50 years and say it is unconstitutional. I also wonder how the rest of the religious community will react when an unconstitutional ruling would jeapordize their tax exemptions. As usual, the right wing evangelicals are playing with fire. They will get burned, lose their tax exemptions and probably their congregations as the church members realize their contributions are no longer tax deductable thanks to their pastor willingly violating the law.

  • Fate

    Fred wrote: “When you all get as excited about all the deomcrats politic-ing in Black churches all over America AND hate “churches” like Jeremiah Wright’s, maybe we can start talking about what other Pastors say in their CHURCHES.”Three points:1) When did Jeremiah Wright endorse a candidate or tell his congregation whom to vote for? If he did not do that then he can discuss anythig he wants from the pulpit, just as these 33 pastors can and do. If he endorsed a candidate or supported a campaign, then what he did was illegal and should receive IRS review. The questions is what specifically did he do that would invite IRS review? Did you know there was never a violation of this or even a claim of a violation of this law by Martin Luther King? That shows just how far into issues a pastor can go without violating the law. MLK never endorsed a politician yet evoked great social change based on his faith.2) There have been some churches that have lost their tax exemption as a result of endorsing politicians. You can read about one here: 3) If houses of worship were allowed to dive into political campaigns, in this day of mega churches, you could have a political machine in the 700 Club for example. In fact, all political groups could claim the status and we would end up like the Shia and Sunnis, where religion dominates politics. This is exactly what these pastors are advocating. It is wrong, it is dangerous, it is exactly what our founding fathers did not want America to become and so is very unAmerican. These pastors should be ashamed of themselves.

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