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In the wake of the recent apology from the IRS for targeting right wing groups and the brouhaha that has resulted from that action, it might behoove us to at least be reminded of a time when that organization apparently went after left-leaning groups during the Bush administration.

The most obvious case is that of All Saints Episcopal Church of Pasadena, which, as far as I can tell, was the only church to have its tax-exempt status threatened with revocation during the Bush administration. Its offense? A sermon on October 31, 2004, by guest speaker, the church's former rector, George F. Regas, questioning the Christian morality of the Iraq war.

In his sermon, Regas, who from the pulpit opposed both the Vietnam War and 1991's Gulf War, imagined Jesus participating in a political debate with then-candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry. Regas said that "good people of profound faith" could vote for either man, and did not tell parishioners whom to support.

But he criticized the war in Iraq, saying that Jesus would have told Bush, "Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster."

That sermon resulted in this response from the IRS:
"a reasonable belief exists that you may not be tax-exempt as a church ... our concerns are based on a Nov. 1, 2004, newspaper article in the Los Angeles Times and a sermon presented at the All Saints Church discussed in the article..."

The IRS cited The Times story's description of the sermon as a "searing indictment of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq" and noted that the sermon described "tax cuts as inimical to the values of Jesus."

I'm not necessarily defending the church in this instance, but I do find it instructive to note that no right-leaning churches faced similar scrutiny for their vocal opposition, say, to gay marriage or abortion or even their support for the Iraq war (I personally attended a memorial service at a California church in 2004 in which the horrors of gay marriage in Massachusetts inexplicably played a major part in the sermon).

In fact, it is this selectivity that makes this story relevant in light of today's revelations:

On a day when churches throughout California took stands on both sides of Proposition 73, which would bar abortions for minors unless parents are notified, some at All Saints feared the politically active church had been singled out.
In the end, the IRS did not wind up revoking the church's tax-exempt status, but keep this case in mind when you face the inevitable barrage of outrage and umbrage from the right that is heading your way on this issue.

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