As I type this, churches all over the country are participating in Pulpit Freedom Sunday. The participating churches will make explicit political endorsements from the pulpits and wait for the IRS to challenge the churches Tax Exempt status. These churches will have full support of the Alliance Defense Fund in mounting their courtroom defense. Their goal is to have the courts rule that the prohibition of political campaign activity by tax exempt religious organizations is an unfair muzzling of the organizations' and their members' First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech.
So who is the ADF? The ADF was founded by Bill Bright (of Campus Crusade for Christ), Larry Burkett (of Crown Financial, a Christian Financial Wellness ministry), James Dobson (of the innocuosly named hate group Focus on the Family), Donald Wildmon (of the almost-Westboro Baptist-level-of-crazy American Family Association) and other ministers and minstry organization. Their mission:
to aggressively defend religious liberty by empowering our allies...through strategy, training, funding, and, where necessary, direct litigation through our own ADF legal team.
Or to remove the window dressing: Christian Dominionism, or the movement to set up Christian Theocracy wherever they can.
The IRS Tax Guide for Churches states that to protect their tax exempt status churches:
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 by or 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.
So standing up in the pulpit and saying "God wants you to vote McCain" means your tax exempt status is gone. There is an obvious reason for this. Tax Exempt status is a very valuable assett, especially if you would be liable for the tax of offerings to a megachurch or national religious organization. Scientology, one of the ugliest pseudoreligious and pseudoscientific pyramid schemes ever, worked long and hard to become tax exempt.
Ironically, one of the only churches to have its tax exempt status challenged was the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena. This very liberal church home for many Hollywood movers and shakers had an antiwar sermon delivered immediately before the 2004 election that was viewed as too Pro-Kerry. All the anecdotes of anti-Kerry rhetoric swimming around during the 2004 election, yet the IRS targets a Pro-Kerry speech.
I think there is but one solution to all of this that would be fair across the board. End Tax Exemption for all churches. If they do charitable work, they can write that off of their taxes like everyone else. But churches need to "Render unto Caesar" and pay their coin. All of them, across the board. Millions of dollars of improvements, many on prime real estate. Tithes and donations. All should be taable income, then any charity work could be written off. Also, saving souls is not charity work. Feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, drug and alcohol treatment, and other traditional charity work can be written off the tax bill. But leading souls to eternal salvation should be its own reward to the church, not an exemption.
The ADF hopes to spark a confrontation. Challenge the IRS and start a legal war over free speech in the pulpit. But wars have a tendency to develop in unforetold ways. Just ask Donald Rumsfeld.
Mirrored from Fatigue Journal.