“A Mass Violation of Federal Tax Law”

Yesterday, the Alliance Defense Fund staged its highly anticipated and controversial “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.” Last night, I spoke by phone … Continued

Yesterday, the Alliance Defense Fund staged its highly anticipated and controversial “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.” Last night, I spoke by phone with three figures who have actively challenged or questioned the ADF’s initiative. All agreed the stunt was a massive violation of federal tax law that should result in IRS sanctions.

According to the ADF’s site, 33 pastors in 22 states were expected to preach “about the moral qualifications of candidates seeking political office. The pastors will exercise their First Amendment right to preach on the subject, despite federal tax regulations that prohibit intervening or participating in a political campaign.”

Put differently, the pastors were threatening to break the law (and by all accounts they did!). The federal tax regulations which the ADF intended to violate are found in the Internal Revenue Service’s 501(c) (3) section which prohibits charitable organizations from, among other things, endorsing political candidates. None of this seems to worry the ADF and its many lawyers. In fact, they are actually hoping to get a rise out of the IRS–all the better to get this party started in the United States Supreme Court.

The first person I spoke to about this is Eric Williams senior pastor of North Congregational United Church of Christ in Columbus Ohio. Pastor Williams has expressed concerns over the ADF’s plan and even called on UCC pastors to preach counter-sermons in support of separation of Church and State. He also asked the IRS to revoke the charitable status of the ADF and enjoin it from continuing to solicit churches to knowingly violate charities law.

The second is the lawyer Marcus Owens. Mr. Owens brings unique expertise to bear on this problem since he was employed by the Exempt Organizations Division of the Internal Revenue Service (he also served as its director for ten years). On Sept. 9, Owens wrote a letter to the IRS’s Office of Professional Responsibility raising concerns about the Alliance Defense Fund’s proposed actions.

Finally, I was fortunate to solicit an important comment (see below) from another lawyer, Mr. Cono Namorato who formerly worked for the IRS as Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility (the very office to which Mr. Owens protested). His experience might shed light on how the current holder of that position may respond to the Pulpit Freedom Sunday.

JACQUES BERLINERBLAU: Pastor Williams, so what actually happened yesterday on Pulpit Freedom Sunday?

ERIC WILLIAMS: I am assuming that 30 or more Christian ministers were systematically counseled by lawyers at the ADF to intentionally violate federal law by preaching a sermon either opposing or endorsing a candidate running for political office.

Do we have any proof of such activities as of today?

WILLIAMS: The only proof I have is what I have been reading in print and hearing on the radio. I was in an interview with a minister who announced that he would indeed endorse one of the candidates. His name was Gus Booth and he’s from Warroad Minnesota.

Indeed, one of the curious things about the ADF is that it wants to publicize its lawbreaking. It is goading the IRS “to make its day.” What do you make of that?

WILLIAMS: It troubles me. In my mind it diminishes the integrity and the role of religious leaders and religious communities alike. I’ve heard the ADF’s argument, but it doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not a matter of free speech – it’s a matter political speech at the expense of the American tax payer.

What do you think lies behind this?

WILLIAMS: I have a growing suspicion that what lies behind the pulpit initiative is not a desire to assure free speech. Because I don’t think free speech is jeopardized. I worry that these churches are trying to gain political power. The goal is to secure increased political power by either aligning the church with a candidate or political party, or by gaining influence on that candidate’s or party’s platform through promised voter turn out.

Seeking either possibility through the pulpit certainly entangles the church–through electoral politics–with government. Entanglement serves only one goal: to advance laws and policies that impose sectarian religious values into public life. Whenever this happens, all of us lose our democratic freedoms.

Turning to you counselor, in what particular ways do the ADF’s actions violate the law?

MARCUS OWENS: There are two issues at play here. One is the action of the ADF itself in orchestrating a mass violation of federal tax law. There is a set of ethical rules that applies to all professionals who practice federal tax law or who advise taxpayers as to what federal tax laws require. Those rules are designed to regulate the behavior of the tax professionals to ensure the integrity of the voluntary tax system and are backed up with sanctions. They are enforced by a part of the IRS called the Office of Professional Responsibility. What the rules clearly and unequivocally proscribe is counseling taxpayers on how to violate the tax law.

There is another issue as well. One of the requirements for federal tax exemption is that the charity or church in question not engage in political campaign activity. In addition to potential loss of tax-exempt status triggered by such intervention, there is an excise tax that applies to the amount involved in the political campaign intervention. It would be 10% of the amount a church spent on the activities constituting the intervention. So if the pastor spent his entire service on this act of intervention, and the intervention was described on the church website or in the church bulletin the church would have to pay 10% of those costs.

Of course, the loss of tax-exempt status, even for a limited period of time, is much more significant and symbolic.

What could happen to the ADF lawyers sponsoring this initiative

OWENS: A variety of penalties might apply to lawyers who are involved in assisting in, or aiding and abetting, the violation of tax law, as would be the case in helping to draft a sermon that endorsed or opposed specific candidates. The possible sanctions include warning letters, fines, and even a suspension or permanent bar from practicing tax law. The Office of Professional Responsibility, when it does take action against a lawyer or accountant, forwards the information about the action to the state bar or state CPA society, with further potential repercussions.

In fact, Mr. Cono Namorato who actually once directed the Office of Professional Responsibility has told me that “any covered practitioner (attorney, CPA or enrolled agent ) who counseled someone to break the law would be, in my opinion, subject to a sanction of suspension or disbarment.” Going a bit further, what is the responsibility of the Justice Department and the IRS in all of this?

OWENS: The responsibility of the IRS is to make sure that charities and churches don’t engage in political campaign activity.Second, the IRS is charged with enforcing the ethical rules that apply to practitioners. The role of the Department of Justice is to represent the IRS in court, if necessary, when it takes steps to enforce those particular provisions, or if the IRS decides to seek an injunction as it has done in other situations involving tax protesters.

In your opinion, are the IRS and Justice Department following proper procedures

OWENS: No one knows how they are doing up to now, because of the privacy rules in the Internal Revenue Code that prevent the IRS from disclosing any information about enforcement actions. The only time in which information would be made public would be if the IRS barred or suspended an attorney from the practice of tax law or if the IRS revoked the tax exempt status of a church. The revocation action would be made public to warn potential donors that their contributions will not be deductible.

So in light of these privacy rules, how does Jane Q. Citizen know if the IRS is taking the ADF’s actions seriously?

OWENS: The IRS has confirmed that it has received the complaints and is evaluating them. In view of the facts that the complaints included specific documentation of the ethical violations, and the political campaign intervention will be publicized, the likelihood of IRS action is high. It is possible that the ADF, or one or more of the churches involved in the project, could release a public statement if IRS action occurs. I should also add that Sen. Charles Grassley (R – IA), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, has been pushing the IRS to crack down on attorneys and other practitioners who counsel violation or abuse of the tax laws. The Department of Justice, under Attorney General Mukassey and his predecessors, has obtained injunctions against such improper and unethical behavior.

Coming back to you, Pastor Williams, why should religious Americans be concerned about this?

WILLIAMS: To tear down the historic wall of separation of church and state is to seek to erode individual liberties of conscience and religion–our unalienable rights guaranteed by our nation’s founding documents.

What do you expect will happen next?

WILLIAMS: I expect that the story will have profile in the media. I don’t know that a court will, in fact, take up the argument. But the ADF has clearly articulated its aspiration. The hope is that recent appointments to the Supreme Court will result in an overturn of the 1954 Statute.

Do you think this is going to go to United States Supreme Court?

WILLIAMS: It is my hope that, on the contrary, the IRS will find the ADF counsel guilty of ethics violations and deliver appropriate sanctions. It is my hope that the IRS will revoke the charitable status of the ADF on the grounds that promoting tax abuse by churches has never, throughout the history of this nation, been considered a charitable activity.
And I hope that the churches will be sanctioned in a way that discourages candidate endorsement from the pulpit by members of all clergy in future election cycles. It will be deeply disturbing to me, and troubling for the democracy, if facts generated in this case produce a pattern that is permitted to rise in profile for consideration by the Supreme Court. History and legal precedent is not on the side of the Alliance Defense Fund or their participating churches. But any number of events have taken place in recent years – even within the past week – that defy historic precedent.

By Jacques Berlinerblau | 
September 29, 2008; 4:56 AM ET

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The God Vote

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  • spiderman2

    Signs of the times. When “modern Noahs” preach hard, it’s a clear sign that doomsday is coming. At our doorstep is an abortionist and pro-gay marriage future president. Waht sign of doom is clearer than that?

  • iguana

    Let’s say it’s a great idea for churches to endorse candidates. In that case, let’s also look at the current political landscape, according to electoral-vote.com: So if preachers are going to start getting involved in the process, they will want to start siding with the winning candidates, which at the moment are Democrats. This could be great news for the Democrats. Be careful what you wish for, since you might get it. A politicized church would also mean a church that stoops to the level of politics.



  • Drew Allanson

    It’s interesting that Eric Williams didn’t voice concern over his denomination, the United Church of Christ, hosting Barack Obama at their national convention (see Seems to me that this all about politics (on both sides) since Williams didn’t have the courage to challenge his own denomination on this.

  • Roy

    What do I make of the ADF goading the IRS “to make its day.”A Cheney Justice Department that they know will not enforce the law against its own right-wing neochristians – a corrupt and decaying intolerant theocracy that was once a great America.

  • revolruf

    I am able to talk about anything I want in this country. I can tell a group of friends who I believe should be voted for and why. BUT I PAY TAXES!!! Tax the $#!^ out of the churches that do this!

  • Tonio

    The issue is much larger than candidate endorsement. The founders of the ADF have preached explicitly and consistently for theocracy – they want their interpretation of biblical law to be enacted into secular law.

  • vicoa2

    HOLY Mackerel! You mean white folks are in trouble for practicing a long-held African American tradition?What IS the world coming to?

  • Paganplace

    Aha… Well, the solution to this political stunt and judicial frame-up is right here:”I am assuming that 30 or more Christian ministers were systematically counseled by lawyers at the ADF to intentionally violate federal law by preaching a sermon either opposing or endorsing a candidate running for political office.”OK, then, don’t put the preachers on trial before an election: take away the tax exemptions, and prosecute or at least disbarr these *lawyers* for legal malpractice. Tsk. Tricking innocent preachers into tax fraud like that. Bad lawyers. 🙂

  • Chicago1

    Tax fraud, conspiracy, racketeering. Few things are as nauseating as anyone in the pulpit implying that brethren on the left or the right are less Christian than thou. I walk out when I hear such things. Our faith runs deeper than such differences, which can be arrived at in good faith. It is impious to render unto God what is of Caesar.

  • Achshav

    The wall of separation between church and state must be preserved. If these reverends want to go into politics, fine. And if their congregants want to keep them on the job, fine. In pursuing these actions, however, they are showing that they expect to lose their tax-exempt status. And that’s up to them.I challenge everyone involved in this movement to put their money where their mouth is.

  • Ed Banks

    1. These 33 idiots parading themselves as pastors are nothing but hypocrites and charlatans deceiving the gullible and ignorant American southern Christians. These are no men of God, they are religious harlots. The message of Jesus is a message of love and peace and not of hate and discrimination. Finally, if these foolish pastors are really interested in saving lives, let them begin with abrogating the unevenly-applied death penalty and opening the prison gates for 2 million minority prisoners the most by any nation in the world. If the politician-pastors are serious and sincere about immorality in our nation, let them begin with sending Bush, Cheney and all these GOP leaders to jail for the crime they committed in Iraq, on energy, environment, poverty, healthcare policies. GOP fail to do oversight on financial, food, energy, military, climate industries and we are less safe due to these negligence and the extremist far right so called pastors have the guts to violate laws on the books in the name of preaching their hate. Shame of these evil pastors, Shame on them 1000 times. They are not serving the God of love that wrote the bible but their own selfish ends. American is not a Christian nation but a secular nation that belongs to all people not just the Christians. We have a human government based on human constitution and not the bible. Can you imagine what will happen if the Hindu, Buddha, Moslem and all other cult religions insist on their own candidates and policies? It will be chaos, My God and His son Jesus Christ is not the author of confusion and chaos, He is God of peace and love, hence what these far right extremist hypocrites are advocating for is lawlessness, confusion, hate and disorder contrary to the will of God.

  • Sceptic

    Churches and any non-profit/charity organization should have their spending and their practices watched like a hawk. The government is giving special privileges to these groups but if they don’t play by the rules the privileges need to be removed. A frightening amount of people don’t understand how important the separation of church and state is to maintaining a healthy democracy. Nothing scares me more than the possibility of rewinding the progress of our culture and becoming a religious state. One of the primary reasons people came over to America to start fresh was religious freedom. That means the freedom to practice yours and not be force into practicing someone else’s. There are many people that try to reconcile their religious beliefs with the greater social world around them: with science, with politics, etc. It doesn’t work. They are separate entities with their own logic. Church and religion will no longer be what you want it to be if you start forcing it into schools and government policy. Once religion is part of government it is no longer yours, it is everybody’s and they are going to do whatever they want with it, whether you like it or not.


    No one is denying the clergy their freedom of speech, they can say what they wish – they just won’t be able to do it with tax exempt status. That status is a privilege afforded by the government, not a right. As an officer in a local church, I am quite upset that politics is brought up during a church service. Politics divide people. Churches are supposed to be about uniting people in their COMMON beliefs.

  • Ed Banks

    This is religious harlotory at its worst.As long as GOP politicians shouts Jesus Jesus, there are plenty of vile men out there to defend them provided they promise to back anti-abortion and anti-gay positions. This is not the reason Jesus established His church on earth.

  • Truth

    I thought Rev. Jeramiah Wright already settled this issue.

  • Drew Allanson

    It’s interesting that Eric Williams didn’t voice concern over his denomination, the United Church of Christ, hosting Barack Obama at their national convention (see Seems to me that this all about politics (on both sides) since Williams didn’t have the courage to challenge his own denomination on this.

  • Drew Allanson1

    It’s interesting that Eric Williams didn’t voice concern over his denomination, the United Church of Christ, hosting Barack Obama at their national convention – see Seems to me that this all about politics (on both sides) since Williams didn’t have the courage to challenge his own denomination on this.

  • Republikan

    Perhaps Jacques,The first person and Church that should be slapped with a fine is Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. You know Reverend Wright talking about Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton. What about Father Pfleger and his sermon at Trinity.You seem to only have a problem with preachers who are going to point out Biblical truths which could shame Obama and his voting record.If no candidate’s name was mentioned, where is the problem?The problem is with you and the “drum beat” of fear that McCain and Palin are resonating with Evangelicals and Catholics. Freedom of speech is a bell you ring when you are worried.Interesting.

  • Steve Real

    The IRS has a moral obligation to make these politikal preachers pay the price of politiks.I can’t stand politiks in my pulpit.

  • Mike

    Organized religion is the root of all evil.

  • Farnaz

    Christianism, Islamism, etc., are not the problem. The problem is that we say we are committed to separation of church and state while granting tax exempt status to institutions of organized religion. Let clergy say whatever they want. Remove tax exempt status from religious institutions.

  • Mark

    This is all about timing. Of course, this ridiculous initiative isn’t expected to succeed! Separation of Church and State is sacrosanct.The real objective is to motivate the religious ultra-conservative faction, once again, to get out and vote on this single-issue topic. Who do you think has contributed funds to this “movement”? The ADF, Alliance Defense Fund, is pure cover for more political manipulation. Where do all their lawyers come from. Follow the money…The real difficulty is trying to separate Truth from Spin. Perhaps, it is easier to be told who to vote for…

  • Anonymous

    “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.”For those who have issues with government and policies in place to over see the good of thwe nation, it will always be a “hidden agenda.” Frankly, I don’t give a damn what you think, I just do not care, period!

  • Jackie

    Wow, and I thought the whole point of attending church services was to seek spiritual growth, spiritual solace, spiritual enlightenment. How silly to realize at this late point that it’s about politics. No more spiritual nurturing involved, no feeding of the soul, just free speaking men with an agenda. In reading about these I am surprised that these ‘free speech’ ministers endorse an adulterer. Maybe the barriers they are trying to weaken between church and state also includes the 7th Commandment.

  • Anonymous

    You know what I find truley amazing is how much Pastors spend to own property. You can obtain all sorts of information about their ownership of property from public records, their address of condos owned, townhomes owned, rentals owned.How on eath can they afford to make these purchases, and get money back through renting the properties out. Mirror, mirror, on the wall who is the spy behind it all

  • joe

    Joe Putz: Hey Pastor, how much would it cost me to get your support? You know, get all your robots to vote for me and not the other guy?Pastor: Are you holy in the sight of God, do you accept Jesus yadda yadda yadda?Joe Putz: Yeah, sure, all that stuff.Pastor: Well, I had to ask. Look, what interests me more than even personal money is Power. I want a seat in your council, I want a hand on your ear.Joe Putz: whatever you say Pastor. It’ll make me look good to the rubes too, like I really care and all that.Pastor: Lastly, I want this set of laws to be passed (hands over a notebook). I know you can’t get them all passed, but I want your word that you’ll be vocal about your support for them. I have some other Joe Putz’s at the state and local level who are working for me too. We’ll finally be able to take over this country the way jay-sus wants us to, can I hear an amen!Joe Puts: Amen Pastor! Look, can you validate my parking ticket?

  • Anonymous

    yada yada yada yada HAHAHAHA yada yada HAHAHAHA yada yada yada HAHAHAHA yada yada yada HAHAHAHA yada yada yada HAHAHAHA yada yada yada HAHAHAHA yada yada yada HAHAHAHA yada yada yada HAHAHAHA yada yada yada HAHAHAHA yada yada yada yada yada yada HAHAHAHA HAHAHAHA

  • spiderman2

    READY TO BURNIt’s very scary for preachers to just keep silent while it watches America approaching Doom. The Doom is we will have a future president who is very liberal, pro-abortionist and pro-gay marrriage.It’s tantamount to painting your whole house with high octane GASOLINE. The moment Obama is elected , America is READY TO BURN.

  • spiderman2

    These preachers are sacrificing their tax exemption just to SAVE AMERICA. But many Americans had become idiots. Many of them won’t be saved. Part of America will burn, including most part of the rest of the world.Doomsday is coming.

  • Arminius

    When Obama wins the election, a new dawn will arise in America after eight years of darkness. But if, by some evil twist of fate, the religious bigots, McWorse and St Sarah the Moose Slayer, win, we will sink further into the dark age.

  • homesower

    Separation of Church and State? Read your First Amendment. The wall is to keep the government out of the church, not the other way around.What would have happened if churches hadn’t pushed for the abolition of slavery? How were all the Civil Right marches organized? Who led the Civil Rights movement?If the law was rigidly applied there would have been a revolt a long-time ago. Its perfectly appropriate for these pastors to test the law this way. Many important court decisions have been based on someone breaking a law for the purpose of being able to argue in a court room that the law is unconstitutional. Remember the Scopes Monkey trial? How about Plessey vs Ferguson, or Dred Scott?I agree that it is generally unwise for a pastor to push candidates or politics, but there are times when it is important to do just that.

  • Secularist

    What would it take to remove the tax exempt status of churches? Does anybody know?

  • perspective

    Secularist – an act of Congress, pure and simple.

  • not soon enough

    Doomsday is coming spiderman2, and it can’t come soon enough for you.Besides the fact that this is utter crap, why are you so anxious for the most of humanity to die like that? Does it get you off, get you hard, what?You’re going to live whatever is left of your life, just like all the other end-of-timers throughout the past 2,000 years, and it will never happen.Unless of course, someone just like you gets her finger on “the button”

  • asd

    homesower, what would have happened if “the church” hadn’t pushed for the abolition of slavery?The other “the church” which was being used to justify it would still be having slavery today.Slavery is in your bible. It is approved of in your bible. Your bible was used to justify it.

  • spiderman2

    Tax exemption or no tax exemption, you will be hearing A LOT MORE from these preachers. It’s the sign of the time. When DOOMSDAY is near, preachers become bold and loud. The message will be LISTEN OR DIE. Doomsday will occur because many people will OPT TO DIE. They are deft and cannot hear.The Bible is VERY ACCURATE with its prophecies. It has predicted that the world will become stupid. BULLS-EYE.

  • Anonymous


  • mattr

    This is an interesting discussion that shows how polarized we are. My wife and I discussed this yesterday. [She is a fundamentalist Christian and I am happily non-denominational; it follows that she is independent with a conservative twist and I am liberal with an independent streak. We are perfectly satisfied in our faith and our politics.] Instead of a knee-jerk reaction, this issue requires careful thought and, perhaps, even prayer. I would urge Americans of all faiths to carefully consider this issue and discuss it with their friends, their families and their faith communities. The pastors and the ADF are trying to use a wrecking ball when perhaps a hammer and nails are more appropriate. I have no objection to certain political acts by tax exempt organizations. Activist churches have long been a part of our history. If a church holds a political discussion in their building where all opinions are welcome and where the candidates from all parties are given equal time to present their views on issues related to faith, that is a good thing. Perhaps more of them should do this so their communities can hear more than one opinion. However, these community discussions should be held separate from the traditional services of that church. Traditional services are supposed to be about faith and fellowship under the lawgiver (God, Allah, Yaweh, the Great Spirit, whatever). When a pastor uses the traditional service to opine on an election and to endorse his or her candidate, then they have crossed a line that should not be crossed. If I were in a congregation where the pastor did this, I would speak out in the service. Many of our forefathers left Europe to escape this type of political-religious intermingling. They did not wish to be forced into a religion by the leaders of that time. In America, we now see forced religion by the powerful as wrong. Today one can view the leaders of these churches as having power comparable to political leaders. When these pastors make political proclamations, they are misusing their power and are trying to force a political opinion on their congregants. This is equally wrong. My advice to these pastors is to step back and examine the real reasons why they wish to step on a fundamental principle of America. Are they misusing their power? Are they too focused on the sliver in the politicians’ eyes and not concerned about the plank in their own? Would they accept that another church with a completely opposing view point should be allowed the same freedom? Are they concerned that other nations have very strong connections between religion and state and are often very repressive regimes where the people lack basic freedoms? I think I know the answers to these questions and it prevents me from following these pastors. Perhaps their congregants should ask questions and judge for themselves. If they judge that this activism is wrong, they need to speak out.

  • David

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” for those of you unfamiliar, this is the relevant clause of the US Constitution’s 1st amendment. you will notice the only restriction is on Congress. they are to “make no law.” the cited tax code, 501(c) (3), by threatening a Church’s tax-free status, *IS* “prohibiting the free exercise thereof!” also, if IRS only goes after clergy who support McCain – not those who support Obama – such selective enforcment only strengthens arguments against this law.

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    What about mainstream international newspapers which degenerate to function like partisan propaganda machines?We saw what biased reporting can do as happened in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. An American public who enthusiastically supported the invasion of Iraq in violation of international law and a better informed international community totally opposed to it.

  • Anonymous

    When the media begin to function like propaganda machines it becomes almost completely useless as a source of reliable information.

  • Anonymous

    No offense meant Professor. I’m just hoping to read non-partisan political analysis from you.

  • Anonymous

    If I were an American, I would vote for the Obama-Biden team myself because of all the policies combined, despite my anti-abortion position; but I could do it while at the same time admiring many qualities in Senator McCain and Governor Palin. Governor Palin is a truly fantastic woman and Senator McCain an admirable hero.

  • Roy

    When churches begin to function like propaganda machines they becomes almost completely useless as a source of reliable information.

  • Ben

    With respect, Roy, I wouldn’t expect very much reliable information at all from any church. Belief in holy superheroes would rather disqualify most other opinions natural, philosophical, political, etc.Special responsibilities attend the special status of churches. If a monopolist is found to have engaged in price-gouging, her firm may be disbanded. I don’t see why a different logic should apply to churches that violate the compact they have made with government and society.If you want to influence Caesar’s campaign, at least render unto him that which is his.

  • Anonymous

    Google Tory Christman (formerly Tory Bezazian)and Andreas Heldal-Lund

  • Anonymous

    Freedom of speech does not end in religious organizations. Discussion of moral and ethical aspects of proposed public policies does not constitute playing politics. Only outright endorsement of any particular candidate and political campaigning for them does.Why should only Christian churches be singled out?What about Mosques and Synagogues?

  • Anonymous

    BTW, religious organizations are not meant to be places where one seeks political information. It is a place of worship and one could at best expect to get that particular religion’s take on political issues.The media is meant to be different – non-partisan and covering all political positions equally.

  • Tonio

    “What would have happened if churches hadn’t pushed for the abolition of slavery? How were all the Civil Right marches organized? Who led the Civil Rights movement?”While those churches often used religious language to describe their goals, they still translated the goals into secular principles. The ADF and its member organizations are pushing sectarian goals that have no secular translation, claiming that certain policies are the will of God or Jesus.

  • History Matters

    I understand why the author feels as he does. And I understand that many religious leaders actually speak against political speech from the pulpit. But we need to keep the history in perspective.The U.S. Constitution does not contain the words “separation of church and state.” Those words are a metaphor, but a metaphor is not a clear summary of the facts. In fact, our previous Chief Justice of the Supreme Court thought the metaphor is harmful to legal interpretation.The Constitution (First Amendment) says Congress shall make no law respecting an establish of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. One could argue that not letting a pastor speak freely is prohibiting free exercise (and perhaps free speech, mentioned later in the First Amendment). The IRS rule seems a violation of the Constitution. That is why the ADF would like to get this into the court system.I personally don’t want my pastor speaking directly about candidates, but that is between my congregation and the pastor. I believe he/she has the Constitutional right to talk about candidates.If this law stands, don’t you think the ACLU or some other group will eventually demand revocation of a church’s tax status because the minister speaks out against abortion, without mentioning a party or candidate? After all, the partly lines are relatively clear, and that COULD be interpreted as endorsing a candidate indirectly. Yet abortion, seem by many as the taking of innocent life, could appropriately be addressed as a moral issue by a religious leader.The background of this is discussed here if you want more background:I don’t mind a opinions different from mine. I don’t mind if you wish your pastor to keep quiet about candidates from the pulpit (in fact, I feel the same way). But I think it is inaccurate to base that wish on the Constitution, because such was not the intent of the First Amendment.

  • R.S.Newark

    Hey, Be logical, why not talk to the IRS and ask them what they plsn to do? Be logical for once.

  • Irischermann

    History Matters: I completely agree with you. 100%. Ministers, Rabbis, Imams, etc ALL have the Constitutionally-protected right to Freedom of Speech. If they wish to endorse a politician, they all certainly have the right to do so, even though most of us would disagree with the notion. People seem to forget that every square inch of this nation is a Free Speech Zone.Spiderman2: Get a grip. Enough with the Doomsday nonsense. Is that all you have to say? Are you trying to make a point or something? What drivel.

  • lewsta

    why do not those who decry licensed ministers speaking from the pulpits regarding moral issues closely tied to political platforms also speak out against the nation’s largest abortion provider, which enjoys 501 c3 tax exempt status, using its power, money, and influence to protect the legal status of the killing of the unborn? And why not also against large corporations making tax-exempt contributions to “political action committees” (read: campaign funds) to prevent California voters from enacting the Defense of Marriage ammendment? Come on, this shoe fits two feet. Ministers detailing the moral aspects of abortion and homosexuality being enshrined into law are railed against because they do so while tax exempt. Other organisations )some including churches) who speak out in favour of those things do so with the high praise of the very same lot who rail against moral righteousness. Two faced or what?

  • Farnaz

    I honestly do not care whether church, mosq, or synagogue clergy do or do not endorse this, that, or the other candidate. I simply don’t want to subsidize them, period. It is high time we ended tax exempt status for religious institutions.

  • Robert B.

    I agree with many of you that church is a place for spiritual reflection and instruction. I don’t like it when priests at my church mention specific political issues as part of the homily; I would much rather have the celebrant explain why Christians must treat all human life with dignity and let us take the next step. Luckily, politically charged speech from the pulpit doesn’t happen that often in my parish. It was *much* worse when I was in the diocese of Arlington, VA…My chief concern about political Christians (as I call them) like Spiderman2 is that they forget where their focus should be. St. Augustine put it best, I think, in his *Concerning the City of God* (please forgive the length of this excerpt):”Thus the things necessary for this mortal life are used by both kinds of men and families alike, but each has its own peculiar and widely different aim in using them. The earthly city, which does not live by faith, seeks an earthly peace, and the end it proposes, in the well-ordered concord of civic obedience and rule, is the combination of men’s wills to attain the things which are helpful to this life. The heavenly city, or rather the part of it which sojourns on earth and lives by faith, makes use of this peace only because it must, until this mortal condition which necessitates it shall pass away. ***Consequently, so long as it lives like a captive and a stranger in the earthly city, though it has already received the promise of redemption, and the gift of the Spirit as the earnest of it, it makes no scruple to obey the laws of the earthly city, whereby the things necessary for the maintenance of this mortal life are administered; and thus, as this life is common to both cities, so there is a harmony between them in regard to what belongs to it.***” (emphasis mine)In my opinion, political Christians become so focus on transforming the secular world around them that they tend to forget that they must live as “captives and strangers” in the earthly city. They forget that their true citizenship is not of this world…As for revoking the tax-exempt status of religious institutions, I don’t think that’s a good idea either. After all, there are plenty of non-profit groups that have distinct political agendas. Why should secular institutions have an advantage denied to religious ones? Like I said before, I don’t want churches to become centers for political debate, but I’m not sure that revoking tax-exempt status in the way to go about enforcing this (if indeed such a move can or even should be enforced).On an unrelated matter, why can we post in the old manner here, but not on the main comment board?

  • Farnaz

    Robert B:You ask, “As for revoking the tax-exempt status of religious institutions, I don’t think that’s a good idea either. After all, there are plenty of non-profit groups that have distinct political agendas. Why should secular institutions have an advantage denied to religious ones?”I answer: Separation of church and state

  • Robert B.

    To Farnaz –I don’t think the situation is that simple (though I wish it were). By threatening to revoke tax-exempt status from religious institutions, don’t we limit free speech more than we preserve Jefferson’s “wall of separation”? Which of these fundamentals of American society is more precious?

  • Robert B.

    To Farnaz –P.S. Thanks for answering me in the fashion of Thomas Aquinas. 🙂

  • Athena4

    If churches want to be politically active, they can pay taxes. The taxes from some of these mega-churches would go along way towards solving the economic crisis!

  • Robert B.

    To Athena4 –Especially those churches who preach the so-called “Prosperity Gospel”. These guys should be first to pony up some dough… :)But seriously, I think the question I posed to Farnaz still stands. How is this threat to tax-exemption not a limitation on free speech and expression? I’m no great fan of the Religious Right (see my earlier post on political Christians for why), but I do think that the ADF brings up a valid point.

  • Athena4

    You betcha! No wonder those preachers can drive Mercedeses and Beamers – they’re not paying their taxes! I’m not saying that all clergy should pay taxes if they are non-partisan. There’s a big difference between “vote pro-life” and “vote for X because they’re pro-life”. But if you are saying “vote for X” or “vote for the ABC Party” you should be taxed. That goes for liberal religious groups as well as conservative ones. But it’s only the liberal ones that the IRS goes after these days.

  • Robert B.

    Athena4:I think clergy and other employees of a religious organization are still taxed, but the profits of their organization are not. The clergy still have “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”Perhaps taxing a church where there is blatant political speech is the best compromise we can make in this situation. Still, it’s a fine line that many clergymen (conservative or liberal) will be learning to walk.

  • Krystal

    Krystal here with WDC Media PR. My client has shown great interest into your article Pastors Preach Politics, Risk Tax-Exempt Status and we both agree that your readers might find the advisory below very interesting.I would be happy to arrange an interview for you to speak with my client, Bill Keller. For your conveneince you can reach me at 1-877-862-3600 ext.2 or KCwdcmedia@gmail.com.Look forward to hearing form you,

  • Anonymous

    Morality is the goal of all religions.— Mahatma Gandhi

  • Anonymous

    What is morality?Loving your neighbor as yourself in ACTION.

  • Anonymous

    Over centuries religions have sought to build societies in which loving one’s neighbor as oneself is practiced. They have been imperfect in many ways but that is the stated goal of all religions.

  • Anonymous

    Is freedom of speech to be denied to those who would state in public how they intend to be a moral influence for a better society?

  • Anonymous

    Is there a partisan bias to which political party or candidate a religious organization or religious teacher may support or endorse publicly?Make a list of all the religious leaders and religious organizations that support and endorse publicly the Obama-Biden ticket. Compare it with those who do the same with the McCain-Palin ticket.Are those who support the McCain-Palin ticket being singled out? If so, why?

  • Nancy

    Where are the preachers that know the bible and will stand up to these preachers and show where they are even breaking GOD’S laws and requirements when they violate the scriptures which tell them they must obey the authorities? It seems they are supporting their blasphemy. Why would this be? Are the afraid? Only people who don’t follow the Lord could be that afraid. It has always been the bood of martyrs who dared to stand up against lies and warn such liars of the wrath to come that has EVER spread true Christianity. Thanks for this blog. I’m just appalled with these people. They are such liars and schemers, interested NOT in GOD and his people but power and filthy lucre.

  • Nancy

    To those who endorse such a travesty; go read your bibles. Jesus REFUSED to have anything to do with POLITICS! Pilate marvelled and washed his hands of the matter because Jesus had broken NONE of his secular laws and handed him over to the wicked Pharisees. Men much like these wicked preachers of today who lust for power and money. Jesus didn’t make them do this, but Satan did. And they are cooperating willingly. Someone should go and warn them of the wrath to come, and of the burning forever in hell when they die.