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GOP Congressman Seeks to 'Restore Free Speech' in Churches
CNS News ^ | March 03, 2005 | Nathan Burchfiel

Posted on 03/04/2005 6:54:29 AM PST by Crackingham

A U.S. House Republican wants religious leaders to be able to use their pulpits to endorse political candidates and he has introduced legislation that would do just that through a change in the tax code.

Church leaders, in order to protect their tax-exempt status, are currently prohibited by law from taking sides in a political debate. But North Carolina Republican Rep. Walter Jones' bill - the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act of 2005 -- would change the Internal Revenue Service code. Similar legislation may be sponsored in the U.S. Senate by Kansas Republican Sen. Sam Brownback.

"Whatever God puts in the minister's heart to say, he is protected by the First Amendment if this becomes law," " Jones told Cybercast News Service . This is the fourth time such a bill has been introduced in the House.

Jones said churches "have a special place in America," and should be freed from some rules typically applying to tax-exempt organizations. "When the churches qualified for a 501(c)3 (the IRS's classification for tax-exempt organizations) back in the late 30s, early 40s, there was never any restriction of speech on them -- nothing, absolutely zero."

Restrictions on political speech for tax-exempt groups were imposed in 1954 under an amendment to the tax code proposed by Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, who went on to serve as vice president and then president after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.

Coburn said those rules violate the Constitution. He said the First Amendment exists "to protect two vital freedoms: speech about political subjects and religious worship. Those who want to silence religious leaders have turned the Constitution on its head."

If Jones' bill becomes law, pastors would be able to discuss political issues and explicitly endorse candidates from the pulpit, so long as church money, which remains tax-exempt, wasn't used to distribute political or campaign messages.

But Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State said the relevant debate is not over the freedom of religious leaders to address political issues. Instead, he said, it concerns whether tax-exempt organizations should be allowed to campaign.

Boston said he doesn't think the current regulations "in any way stifle a church's ability to discuss compelling issues of the day like gay marriage and gun control and abortion.

"That's all protected," Boston said. "They just have to stop short at telling people who to vote for or not to vote for."


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Front Page News; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: 109th; churchandstate; firstamendment; freespeech; irs; taxes; walterjones
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1 posted on 03/04/2005 6:54:29 AM PST by Crackingham
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To: Crackingham

Its about damn time - we need to thank the congressmen who vote in favor of this.


2 posted on 03/04/2005 7:05:51 AM PST by sasafras (sasafras (The road to hell is paved with good intentions))
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To: Crackingham

THIS is an actual violation of the First Ammendment,, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or Prohibiting the Free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The 10 C's on the courthouse wall is not a violation.


3 posted on 03/04/2005 7:06:42 AM PST by aspiring.hillbilly
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To: sasafras
Its about damn time - we need to thank the congressmen who vote in favor of this.

I disagree. You will see countless new congregations popping up - such as the Church of Her Royal Thighness - to exploit this.

And any change should apply to all groups or to none.

4 posted on 03/04/2005 7:08:40 AM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
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To: Crackingham
This is a tremendously important piece of legislation.

Congress should pass this bill pronto...with whatever urging is needed!

5 posted on 03/04/2005 7:09:16 AM PST by TonyRo76 (American by birth. Patriot by choice. Christian by grace.)
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To: Crackingham
Coburn said those rules violate the Constitution. He said the First Amendment exists "to protect two vital freedoms: speech about political subjects and religious worship. Those who want to silence religious leaders have turned the Constitution on its head."

If Jones' bill becomes law, pastors would be able to discuss political issues and explicitly endorse candidates from the pulpit, so long as church money, which remains tax-exempt, wasn't used to distribute political or campaign messages.

The idea of Liberty is alive and well in NC.

6 posted on 03/04/2005 7:10:02 AM PST by Joe.E.Sixpack
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To: Crackingham

endorsing political candidates in church is only a problem if the church endorses a republican. how many times have we seen prominent democrats at some church using the alter to give stump speeches?

remember Clinton, Jackson, Sharpton?


7 posted on 03/04/2005 7:12:11 AM PST by camle (keep your mind open and somebody will fill it with something for you))
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To: Crackingham; sasafras; aspiring.hillbilly; dirtboy; TonyRo76; Joe.E.Sixpack

I have a better idea: revoke ALL tax-exemptions for ALL organizations.

It's not that I'm anti-church, it's that the "charity" deduction has opened the door for all kinds of tax-free organizations, most of which are activist groups for Leftist causes.

And frankly, a tax-deduction for an organization is a de facto tax subsidy for that organization. Which means that tax payers are being forced to subsidize organizations that they may not agree with, morally or otherwise. For example, a Catholic may like the idea that his parish is getting a tax break, but how does he feel about similar tax breaks going to abortion clinics, homosexual activist organizations, or an Islamic mosque that's advocating terrorism?

What we really need in this country is true tax reform. But until that happens, we need to abolish ALL tax-exemptions for ALL organizations. And that would also solve this absurd free-speech violation: organizations can advocate any political view that they wish without fear of government repercussions.


8 posted on 03/04/2005 7:13:06 AM PST by SpyGuy (Liberalism is slow societal suicide. And screw political correctness: Islam is the Religion of Death)
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To: SpyGuy
I have a better idea: revoke ALL tax-exemptions for ALL organizations.

Actually, I have recoimmended to my church that we rescind our 501(c)(3) status, but for much different reasons than yours. The reason being the un-Constitutional restrictions that Rep. Jones seeks to remove.

9 posted on 03/04/2005 7:17:29 AM PST by Joe.E.Sixpack
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To: Crackingham
The constitution specifically says that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or denying the free exercise thereof.

Therefore, any governmental restriction based on IRS code is automatically a violation of the constitution. And government law to take church money in any capacity is a violation of this amendment. These both violate the free exercise provision.

Pastors are free to speak as they wish. Religious money is given as an act of religion for a religious purpose, no matter the purpose.

What part of "no law" don't they understand?

10 posted on 03/04/2005 7:21:08 AM PST by xzins ( Retired Army Chaplain and Proud of it!)
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To: Crackingham; sasafras; aspiring.hillbilly; dirtboy; TonyRo76; Joe.E.Sixpack; camle; SpyGuy
Tat is because TAXATION is the root of oppression.

Fees and duties? Yes - taxation? an evil.

11 posted on 03/04/2005 7:21:59 AM PST by Destro (Know your enemy! Help fight Islamic terrorism by visiting johnathangaltfilms.com and jihadwatch.org)
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To: Crackingham; sasafras; aspiring.hillbilly; dirtboy; TonyRo76; Joe.E.Sixpack; camle; SpyGuy; ...
That is because TAXATION is the root of oppression.

Fees and duties? Yes - taxation? an evil.

12 posted on 03/04/2005 7:23:25 AM PST by Destro (Know your enemy! Help fight Islamic terrorism by visiting johnathangaltfilms.com and jihadwatch.org)
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To: xzins
Therefore, any governmental restriction based on IRS code is automatically a violation of the constitution.

I disagree - you can simply not take the tax exemption and speak out all you want. The government does not force you to take a tax break.

And I disagree with the scope of this proposal - it should apply to all tax-exempt organizations, or none.

13 posted on 03/04/2005 7:24:12 AM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
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To: Crackingham; sasafras; aspiring.hillbilly; dirtboy; TonyRo76; Joe.E.Sixpack; camle; SpyGuy; ...
That is because TAXATION is the root of oppression.

Fees and duties? Yes - taxation? an evil.

Now I am on a tear - cause of GAY MARRIAGE RIGHTS? Taxation status - taxation codes are being used by gays as a way to open up their lifestyle into a right.

Taxation is the basis on which Gays are fighting the traditional system - and I have to admit from a tax stand point the homos are correct - end the taxation - and the gays lose their foundation for the same sex marriage right.

I am going to go punch a wall or something.....

14 posted on 03/04/2005 7:25:58 AM PST by Destro (Know your enemy! Help fight Islamic terrorism by visiting johnathangaltfilms.com and jihadwatch.org)
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To: dirtboy

You're exactly right - I would rather level the playing field by removing the tax exempt status of black or liberal churches for their open flouting of the law over the years.


15 posted on 03/04/2005 7:27:19 AM PST by Let's Roll ("Congressmen who ... undermine the military ... should be arrested, exiled or hanged" - A. Lincoln)
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To: dirtboy

What part of "no law" don't you understand?

Do you also support gun control, or do you recognize that "the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" has the word "not" in there someplace?

If you see the "not" in the 2nd amendment, then see the "no" in the 1st amendment.


16 posted on 03/04/2005 7:29:36 AM PST by xzins ( Retired Army Chaplain and Proud of it!)
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To: dirtboy
I disagree - you can simply not take the tax exemption and speak out all you want.

Then you disagree with the Constitution's guarantee of "freedom of speech", which specifically was to insure the freedom to speak freely in the political spectrum. To restrict that freedom by churches and pastors is a violation of the Constitution.

17 posted on 03/04/2005 7:32:43 AM PST by Joe.E.Sixpack
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To: xzins
What part of "no law" don't you understand?

Once again, no one forces a church to accept tax-exempt status.

Do you also support gun control, or do you recognize that "the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" has the word "not" in there someplace?

Nice try but no stogie. By your logic, gun-buyback programs would be unconsitutional, even though they are voluntary. I personally disagree with gun-buyback programs, but that doesn't change the fact that a voluntary program or tax break is not an infringement on free speech.

18 posted on 03/04/2005 7:33:31 AM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
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To: sasafras

NO! If churches want to become "political pulpits" they can give up their tax-exempt status. Can you just imagine the political money that would be funneled through churches if this were allowed?

Remember; being given a tax-exempt status is, in essence, a form of tax subsidy(everyone else has to pick up the slack).


19 posted on 03/04/2005 7:33:44 AM PST by 4thInfVet (Howard Dean, the gift that keeps on giving!)
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To: Joe.E.Sixpack

The simplest way to deal with this is for us to pass the FairTax bill which will completely end the income tax, dismantle the IRS and completely remove ALL of our churches and nonprofits from the government's unrighteous scrutiny permanently.

We also need to repeal the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Congressman Steve King has a bill in the House RIGHT NOW that begins that process.

We also need TRUE campaign finance reform: Remove the caps on how much an individual can give to a candidate and demand full reporting...on the internet for all to see.

THIS is the way to restore religious and political freedom in America.


20 posted on 03/04/2005 7:39:56 AM PST by EternalVigilance (Freedom. Brought to you by the grace of God and the Red, White and Blue...)
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To: Joe.E.Sixpack
Then you disagree with the Constitution's guarantee of "freedom of speech", which specifically was to insure the freedom to speak freely in the political spectrum. To restrict that freedom by churches and pastors is a violation of the Constitution.

Churches are not restricted per se. If you want Uncle Sam's tax exemption, you take his terms for the tax exemption. That applies whether you are a church or a soup kitchen - or at least it is supposed to.

I personally think that the entire structure of campaign finance laws should be overhauled with an emphasis on disclosure rather than prohibition. But tax exempt status is an entirely different animal.

21 posted on 03/04/2005 7:45:36 AM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
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Comment #22 Removed by Moderator

To: dirtboy
The government does not force you to take a tax break.

Correct. Any church that agrees with being tax-exempt knows full well what the rules are.

If churches want to electioneer they can incorporate in a different manner. Or form a PAC. It's what normally 501(c)(3) orgs from Planned Parenthood to the NRA have done.

Problem solved.

And I disagree with the scope of this proposal - it should apply to all tax-exempt organizations, or none.

Agreed.

23 posted on 03/04/2005 8:12:11 AM PST by gdani
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To: Crackingham
Church leaders, in order to protect their tax-exempt status, are currently prohibited by law from taking sides in a political debate.

False. They are prevented from electioneering (endorsing & raising money for candidates).

24 posted on 03/04/2005 8:19:17 AM PST by gdani
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To: dirtboy

"And any change should apply to all groups or to none."

Remember, his name is the REVEREND Jesse Jackson.




25 posted on 03/04/2005 9:16:14 AM PST by EQAndyBuzz (60 votes and the world changes.)
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To: EQAndyBuzz
Remember, his name is the REVEREND Jesse Jackson.

He already has a de facto exemption, so I'm not sure what your point is. If anything, your point is a case for actually enforcing the existing laws against Jesse.

26 posted on 03/04/2005 9:18:14 AM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
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To: EternalVigilance
The simplest way to deal with this is for us to pass the FairTax bill which will completely end the income tax, dismantle the IRS and completely remove ALL of our churches and nonprofits from the government's unrighteous scrutiny permanently.

I agree, but in the meantime, which could be a long time for our government is designed to be slow, the removal of illegal and unconstitutional prohibitions on freedom of speech registered against churches has to be removed.

We also need to repeal the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Congressman Steve King has a bill in the House RIGHT NOW that begins that process.
I agree.

We also need TRUE campaign finance reform: Remove the caps on how much an individual can give to a candidate and demand full reporting...on the internet for all to see.
The so-called campaign reform as it stands now is also a restriction of freedom of speech/expression. There should be no restrictions on who or how much anyone contributes. There have been laws against influence buying for a long time that can be enforced rather than pass unconstitutional laws.

27 posted on 03/04/2005 9:39:32 AM PST by Joe.E.Sixpack
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To: dirtboy
"Once again, no one forces a church to accept tax-exempt status."

Good enough reason to abolish the gestapo IRS

28 posted on 03/04/2005 9:40:07 AM PST by hope
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To: dirtboy

"He already has a de facto exemption, so I'm not sure what your point is. If anything, your point is a case for actually enforcing the existing laws against Jesse."

No, my point is Jesse has been shilling for the Dems for so long that this shouldn't even be an issue. If Churches want to do this, then they should. I am not for shutting Jesse down, I am for enabling Churches to do the same.


29 posted on 03/04/2005 9:40:54 AM PST by EQAndyBuzz (60 votes and the world changes.)
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To: dirtboy
Churches are not restricted per se.

False! Churches are restricted. LBJ had that restriction pushed through in the 60's to keep pastors and churches from addressing political issues and candidates from the pulpit. Until then there were no restrictions. Churches were tax exempt following a tradition by governments dating to the middle ages. Until the 60's there were no such restrictions of speech on churches by the gubmint.

If you want Uncle Sam's tax exemption, you take his terms for the tax exemption.

That is a totalitarian means to an end, and no such strings are permitted under the Constitution.

Again, what you promote is unconstitutional. Are you a liberal? You sure sound like one.

30 posted on 03/04/2005 9:45:00 AM PST by Joe.E.Sixpack
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To: Joe.E.Sixpack
False! Churches are restricted. LBJ had that restriction pushed through in the 60's to keep pastors and churches from addressing political issues and candidates from the pulpit. Until then there were no restrictions. Churches were tax exempt following a tradition by governments dating to the middle ages. Until the 60's there were no such restrictions of speech on churches by the gubmint.

And there were lots of other restrictions pushed through as well on free speech since. However, either you lift this restriction for all tax-exempt groups - or for none.

That is a totalitarian means to an end, and no such strings are permitted under the Constitution.

Once again, if you don't want the restrictions, don't take the tax break. No government entity restricts what I can say on FR (yet). But if JimRob were to accept tax breaks for FR, he would have to adhere to the terms of that tax break. Which is why he doesn't take any.

Again, what you promote is unconstitutional. Are you a liberal? You sure sound like one.

Typical. Because I, someone with a long posting history on FR and solid conservative credentials, disagrees with you on this particular issue, I must be a liberal. I'm in favor of much broader lifting of restrictions on political speech than this one targeted matter. I don't see in the First Amendment where freedom of speech only applies to religious organizations. I also see the concept of equal protection - where if you are going to grant this to churches, you should grant it to all groups.

But I'm the liberal.

31 posted on 03/04/2005 9:56:05 AM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
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To: dirtboy

Boy, you are as dense as dirt. ANY irs rule as applied to religious establishments is blatantly UN-CONSTUTIONAL on its face, reread the First and in may sink in...and that means the rule needs to be to be gone. Remember the rat candidate pandering in black churches in the last election? What did the irs do to those Churches, not a damn thing. No other organizations are singled out in the Constitution, as are religious establishments for hands off treatment by congress. To justify the irs, you have been brainwashed on this issue for tooo long.


32 posted on 03/04/2005 10:02:30 AM PST by aspiring.hillbilly
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To: aspiring.hillbilly
Boy, you are as dense as dirt.

Please knock off the personal attacks.

ANY irs rule as applied to religious establishments is blatantly UN-CONSTUTIONAL on its face, reread the First and in may sink in

I am quite familiar with the First Amendment, thank you. However, freedom of speech is not coupled to freedom of religion in the First - they are separate clauses. Churches should get no more exceptional 1st Amendment right to political speech than any other group. And there is that part of the Constitution about equal protection under the law.

However, in the day and age of McCain-Feingold, your Constitutional arguments and my Constututional arguments are moot. What is Constitutional any more is what Justices O'Connor or Kennedy decide is such, the actual words of the Constitution be damned. So we are reduced to more basic concepts of fairness - and if churches are going to be able to politic and remain tax-exempt, then that should apply to other groups as well. And I am in favor of far more broad opening up of political speech than just granting special dispensation to churches.

33 posted on 03/04/2005 10:07:27 AM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
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Comment #34 Removed by Moderator

Comment #35 Removed by Moderator

To: Joe.E.Sixpack
That is what Rep. Jones' bill will do!

No, it is targeted specifically to churches.

You don't get it do you? The original 501(c)(3) IRS status did NOT have any such restrictions, they were pushed through by liberals who wanted to restrict the speech of conservative Christian churches and did so unconstitutionally!

It applies to all tax-exempt groups, not just churches.

What a kneejerk reaction. I am a newbie here too dirtboy.

I'm not a newbie.

Your being "new" has nothing to do with my asking you if you are a liberal. Your support of an unconstitutional law that restricts the speech of Christian churches does though.

Sorry, but accepting tax exempt status is not forcible restraint of speech, and fails the censorship test.

I suspect you are also anti-Christian and believe in evilution.

I think you should learn to search first and acccuse second. I happen to believe in evolution, but I am a solid supporter of Christians on this website and in society, even though I am more of a Deist.

36 posted on 03/04/2005 10:17:18 AM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
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To: Joe.E.Sixpack
Oh, I get it, in your confused interpretation of the 1st Amendment, it doesn't apply to churches(US citizens) and pastors(US citizens) but only to individuals who are not part of an organized religion. You do sound totalitarian.

No, but religion has no more right to unfettered political speech than any other group under the First. Try again. And knock off the crap and debate while you are at it.

37 posted on 03/04/2005 10:18:08 AM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
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To: aspiring.hillbilly
Boy, you are as dense as dirt. ANY irs rule as applied to religious establishments is blatantly UN-CONSTUTIONAL on its face, reread the First and in may sink in...and that means the rule needs to be to be gone. Remember the rat candidate pandering in black churches in the last election? What did the irs do to those Churches, not a damn thing. No other organizations are singled out in the Constitution, as are religious establishments for hands off treatment by congress. To justify the irs, you have been brainwashed on this issue for tooo long.Worth repeating.

To become a real hillbilly, come on down to NC, we are proud of our hillbilly status. :-)

38 posted on 03/04/2005 10:18:29 AM PST by Joe.E.Sixpack
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To: Joe.E.Sixpack

Cool it.


39 posted on 03/04/2005 10:20:00 AM PST by Lead Moderator
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Comment #40 Removed by Moderator

To: Joe.E.Sixpack
Wrong! It is coercion, plain and simple!

Sorry, but IMO it is not. We can agree to disagree there without the personal attacks.

41 posted on 03/04/2005 10:21:55 AM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
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To: SpyGuy

I have a better idea: revoke ALL tax-exemptions for ALL organizations.

I agree

Only after they abolish the Internal Revenue Service and put the collection of taxes back where it belongs.

WITH THE CONGRESS!

Then those whiney weasling SOB's can face the ire of their own constituants and be voted out of office handily.


42 posted on 03/04/2005 10:25:23 AM PST by Leatherneck_MT (A Patriot must always be willing to defend his Country against his Government)
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Comment #43 Removed by Moderator

To: aspiring.hillbilly

Yes, it could easily be viewed as exactly that.


44 posted on 03/04/2005 10:32:45 AM PST by Cold Heat (FR is still a good place to get the news and slap around an idiot from time to time.)
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To: Joe.E.Sixpack
Speaking to political issues and candidates in churches is protected by the Constitution, until totalitarians changed it. Addressing political issues in churches is not "unfettered" speech, it is within 1st Amendment rights.

So then the Sierra Club could start their own Church of Gaia and use that for all the political speech they would want then, eh?

45 posted on 03/04/2005 10:39:57 AM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
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Comment #46 Removed by Moderator

Comment #47 Removed by Moderator

To: Joe.E.Sixpack
The 1st Amendment was specically to protect the voice of dissent! You should learn more about the Constitution instead of subverting it.

I am doing no such thing. I asked you a rhetorical question - if churches can be tax-exempt and still politic from the pulpit, what is to stop any secular group from forming their own church and doing the same in order to circumvent tax laws regarding campaign contributions?

48 posted on 03/04/2005 10:48:42 AM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
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Comment #49 Removed by Moderator

To: Joe.E.Sixpack
That's right!

So then this law should be broadened to include all tax-exempt groups, not just churches?

50 posted on 03/04/2005 10:49:36 AM PST by dirtboy (Drooling moron since 1998...)
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