Skip to comments.Ban on Political Endorsements by Pastors Targeted
Posted on 09/08/2008 7:24:12 AM PDT by markomalley
CHICAGO -- Declaring that clergy have a constitutional right to endorse political candidates from their pulpits, the socially conservative Alliance Defense Fund is recruiting several dozen pastors to do just that on Sept. 28, in defiance of Internal Revenue Service rules.
The effort by the Arizona-based legal consortium is designed to trigger an IRS investigation that ADF lawyers would then challenge in federal court. The ultimate goal is to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a 54-year-old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of worship.
"For so long, there has been this cloud of intimidation over the church," ADF attorney Erik Stanley said. "It is the job of the pastors of America to debate the proper role of church in society. It's not for the government to mandate the role of church in society."
Yet an opposing collection of Christian and Jewish clergy will petition the IRS today to stop the protest before it starts, calling the ADF's "Pulpit Initiative" an assault on the rule of law and the separation of church and state.
Backed by three former top IRS officials, the group also wants the IRS to determine whether the nonprofit ADF is risking its own tax-exempt status by organizing an "inappropriate, unethical and illegal" series of political endorsements.
"As religious leaders, we have grave concerns about the ethical implications of soliciting and organizing churches to violate core principles of our society," the clergy wrote in an advance copy of their claim obtained by The Washington Post.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
I like the ADF but there’s no need for this. If you want to keep your tax exemption then be careful about politics...
When the IRS goes after Pfleger and Wright and Sharpton the same way they go after Dobson and Falwell and Kennedy, then the ADF won’t have to do something like this. But until then, since the law’s not enforced for black churches, it’s time for conservative white congregations to take advantage.
democrat “churches” have been endorsing democrat candidates at all levels for the longest time.
Yeah, heaven forbid churches would actually have first amendment rights to express their views.
Ministers endorse candidates all the time. Democrats, mostly. When was this rule ever enforced?
The only reason these restrictions are constitutional, is there is no requirement for Churches to register for 503(c)(3) status. By code, churches are automatically tax exempt even without 503(c)(3) status.
The real solution is to abolish the income tax. Such government intrusions are what set up impossible Constitutional conflicts as this.
Nothing demonstrates the power the income tax gives to bureaucrats than this issue. They can make God’s ministers dance like little puppets on a string. Course they could cut their strings by telling the feds to shove their tax deductions but no one has the courage to do that.
And not surprisingly, given their tax-exempt status, churches have hardly been at the forefront of promoting this idea. Frankly I think a better solution would be to end the concept of tax-exempt entities altogether. Then you'd suddenly see a huge push from religious groups, charitable groups, community activist groups, etc. to take the axe to the huge taxes that are bloating government and stifling our freedom.
As it stands, the taxation problem is not on these groups radar screen, since they don't pay taxes, and thus the effect of the whole tax-exemption scheme is to make sure that tens of thousands of do-gooding organizations of all types don't use their respected status among their members and supporters to make an issue of the out-of-control taxation in this country.
The Congress even printed bibles. and set aside church lots in every state in the Union.
IRS tax exemption policy is the mirror image of FDR’s Fairness Doctrine.
It might be supportable if it was evenly applied. But the leftist churches indulge in political activism with impunity, while real Christian churches are prevented from saying anything.
Democrat candidates speak from the pulpits of black churches, with singing and cheering congregations, on election day, and nothing is done.
Black pastors and leftist pastors bus their congregations to the polls, and nothing is done.
But let a priest or a pastor say that good Christians must not vote for Obama, because he is a baby killer, and all hell would break loose.
We all know that if the Fairness Doctrine were restored, Olberman would continue to rant but Rush would be unemployable. Therefore, it is better not to give government this sort of power over speech—on the air, or in churches.
What did churches do before 1951?
There is no law requiring 501c3 registration. Churches sign away their right to free speech when they file for 501c3.
No 501c3 — still non-taxable. With 501c3, only tax “exempt” at the whim of the IRS.
No 501c3 — Preachers say what they believe from their pulpits, even about candidates. with 501c3, they must keep their mouths shut.
There are thousands of churches in America that operate and conduct full ministries without 501c3, just like ALL of them did before 1951.
New churches - - - DON'T REGISTER TO BECOME A STATE CHURCH, OR A STATE-RESTRICTED, OR A STATE-GOVERNED CHURCH.
Can't cite a particular instance,
but I bet they'd be on a conservative church
in a heartbeat.
Churchs get a tax exemption because:
1. The ablility to tax something is the ability to destroy it.
2. Congress shall make no law affecting religion.
3. Taxing churchs has the real potential of preventing someone from practicing their religion.
Personally, I don’t think any non-profit group should be taxed, even if it was formed strictly for political reasons.
If I and 100 of my neighbors get together and form a non-profit group specificly to campaign against a candidate that wants to build a highway through our neighborhood, and we each donate $100 dollars to the effort, why should the government get a cut of that?
Individuals exercise political influence by forming groups and pooling their resources and efforts. When the government skims off part of their money as taxes, it reduces their political influence.
They can give up their tax-exempt status and endorse anyone they want. This isn’t that hard.
In case there are those who have forgotten the origins of this statute:
The Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act
House Resolution 235 was designed to revise the IRS code to remove restrictions placed on churches and non-profit organizations in 1954 by then-Senator Lyndon Johnson. Prior to 1954, churches and non-profit organizations had no such restrictions on their freedom of speech or their right to speak out in favor or against political issues or candidates.
The history of Johnsons IRS gag order is instructive. It began with what some historians believe to be a fraudulent election of Johnson to the Senate in 1948. It has been maintained by both conservative and liberal historians that Lyndon Johnsons election to the Senate in 1948 was won by massive voter fraud. Known as Landslide Lyndon, this aspiring politician was elected by only 87 votes. His challenger, Coke Stevenson, challenged his election and presented credible evidence that hundreds of votes for Johnson had been faked. Johnson, however, was successful in blocking Stevensons effort by the clever use of cooperative court injunctions.
In 1954, Johnson was facing re-election to the Senate and was being aggressively opposed by two non-profit anti-Communist groups that were attacking Johnsons liberal agenda. In retaliation, Johnson inserted language into the IRS code that prohibited non-profits, including churches, from endorsing or opposing candidates for political office. In effect, Senator Johnson used the power of the go-along Congress and the IRS to silence his opposition.
Unfortunately, it worked. Some in Johnsons staff claimed that Johnson never intended to go after churches, only the two nonprofits in Texas. Nevertheless, his sly amendment to the tax code affected every church in America, and it is a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.
It figures something that stinks this bad would be tied to LBJ.
Bad, bad idea.
They can enorse someone as a private citizen, but to do so from the pulpit mixes religion politics in a way VERY unhealthy for democracy, and I imagine that in the long run it will hurt the churches too.
Why shouldn’t a free people be able to talk politics wherever they want to including in their churches?
And no I do not support giving the gov more tax money by taxing churches.
Saying you personally think X is the best choice is one thing, telling people (or leading them to think) as a religous authority that God wants them to vote for X is a whole different thing. Go down that road and you toss aside a lot of what the founding fathers were all about.
Preachers going political from the pulpit lay the foundation for a theocracy, just as generals going political while they hold command lays a foundation for a military coup.
100 Pastors Vow to Defy IRS Faith or Folly?
By Dr. Greg Dixon
The Associated Press made the startling announcement on May 9 that The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), based in Scottsdale, Arizona is actively recruiting pastors to challenge the, so called, Johnson Law on September 28 and preach a sermon from the pulpit in which they will advocate the support of particular candidates in the fall election. If the action triggers an IRS investigation, the legal group will sue to overturn the federal rules, which were enacted in 1954.
Under the IRS code, churches can distribute voter guides, run voter registration drives, hold forums on public policy and invite politicians to speak at their congregations. However, they cannot endorse a candidate, and their political activity cannot be biased for or against a candidate, directly or indirectly. Neither can a church support specific legislation.
The Alliance Defense Fund said that the regulations amount to an unconstitutional limit on free speech and government intrusion into religion. It certainly does have a chilling effect, said Mike Johnson, senior counsel for the fund. I think that there is a lot of fear and intimidation and disinformation about the parameters that do exist.
Johnson said about 100 pastors have expressed interest in participating so far. He also revealed that the IRS has stepped up monitoring of nonprofit political activity during the 2008 election. Punishments can range from a financial penalty to loss of tax-exempt status.
IRS investigations are confidential and the agency does not discuss the cases. However, the United Church of Christ, where Sen. Barack Obama was a member, has said that it is under IRS review because of a speech given by the Democratic presidential candidate at the denominations national meeting last year.
Also the New York Times has broken the story that Bill Keller, founder of Liveprayer.com with over 2.4 million subscribers to his Daily Devotional and host of the Liveprayer TV program, is under investigation for possibly violating his tax exempt status in speaking out last year against former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Mormon beliefs. Keller, who was the first Christian leader to speak out nationally against Romney’s beliefs coined the phrase, “A vote for Romney is a vote for Satan.”
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an advocacy group in Washington, monitors church political activity and consistently files complaints with the IRS. They said Friday that they will notify the agency of any pastor who participates in the ADF campaign.
In 1934 an important change was made by establishing an additional qualification for tax-exempt status and contributions to non profit organizations. This change made, the deduction for contributions to an organization a substantial part of whose activities is participation in partisan politics or in carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation. Internal Revenue Code-1934(IRC).
Its Proponents in Congress said that it would close loopholes that would raise another $258 million in revenue in otherwise avoided taxes. On April 2, 1934 Sen. Harrison of Mississippi gave this additional condition.
I may say to the Senate that the attention of the Senate committee was called to the fact that there are certain organizations which are receiving contributions in order to influence legislation and carry on propaganda. The committee thought there ought to be an amendment which would stop that.
In 1954 an important change was implemented by Congress, which originated in the Senate from the floor rather than in the committee on Finance. On July 2nd, then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson offered an amendment to Sec. 501©(3) of the (IRC). LBJ believed a private tax-exempt foundation was indirectly contributing to the campaign of one of his political opponents.
[LBJ’s] amendment added and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office directly after the earlier prohibition against influencing legislation. In 1987, the parenthetical phrase (or in opposition to) was inserted after on behalf of. The effect is clear, the new prohibition against campaigning is stricter than the old one against influencing legislation. The latter prohibits any amount of influence in the political arena, while the former allowed a rather uncertain substantial part.
However the IRS is still using the substantial part test today, which shows that they are leaving themselves some wiggle room in the matter of revoking tax-exemptions.
The Basis of the ADF Challenge
It grieves us that the Alliance Defense Fund is challenging the IRS on this issue because we believe them to be on the wrong track Biblically and constitutionally. Tax-exemption in itself is Biblically and constitutionally wrong.
To qualify for an exemption is a violation of the first commandment, Thou shalt have no other gods before me. To get the exemption the church first must violate the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ and must declare that it is under the authority of the IRS as a 501©(3) tax-exempt organization rather than non taxable as an organism, the Lords church or body Corpus Christi. The latter is protected by the First amendment the former is not. Thats the reason it says, Congress shall make no law
But Congress can make laws for legal entities such as corporations or associations that the state brings into existence. The ADF may win their case but it will only be because the government believes it is to their advantage in some way. However if they lose it will mean that we have taken a giant step downward even further into slavery. It would be far better if these churches would abandon their law suit, take measures to get out of their state church status and then stand on solid Biblical and Constitutional grounds.
Dick Greb of the Save-A-Patriot Fellowship of Westminister, MD, states,
What this means is that Congress is willing to subsidize (at public expense) certain organizations by way of exemptions and deductions, but is only willing to subsidize political lobbying activities to a limited degree. Therefore, if you engage in too much lobbying, you will become ineligible both for the exemption and for receiving deductible contributions. And so compromise rears its head. Is it more expedient to be a tax-exempt religious corporation, and so be eligible to receive deductible contributions, but have to sacrifice preaching and advocating the whole Word, and eschew any supposed worldly advantage of exemptions and deductions?
Greb continued, Many Americans find it disturbing that some of our churches today are little more than milquetoast corporations that fear our federal government more than the great I AM. Moreover it can even be said that some preachers have the appearance of cringing, politically correct cowards, rather than committed Godly men of fortitude with backbone, such as those we read of in the Bible (e.g., Matthew 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he [John the Baptist] said to them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?). [Trail of Blood Revisited by Dr. Greg Dixon pgs. 120, 123.
Rather than engaging in lawsuits to create bad law even in case of a win or loss it would be far better for these churches to repent of their sin of spiritual whoredom by jumping in bed with government for protection and provision through incorporation and tax-exemption. It would be better to go Outside the camp with the Lord Jesus and have his blessing and fellowship and receive a Crown of Life rather than to remain in Caesars grip and lose it all at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
If you would like to have information on how to organize or reorganize a church to be Biblically correct contact the Biblical Law Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“1. The ablility to tax something is the ability to destroy it.
“2. Congress shall make no law affecting religion.
“3. Taxing churchs has the real potential of preventing someone from practicing their religion.”
But 501(c)3 status is like a contract with the IRS. Once the trustees of a church or any organization sign on the dotted line to acquire 501(c)3 status, the IRS makes the rules. One can say Congress can make no law . . . but they have got the churches through IRS code.
I advise new churches to operate without 501(c)3 status. I also advise them not to incorporate. The unincorporated, non-501(c)3 churches already number into the thousands around the country.
And how do you end up with the assumption that Pastors will say God wants you to vote for X?
My church is my community and I don’t need the government to tell me what can be discussed and what cannot be discussed with those who I associate.
If they are promoting a candidate from the pulpit, that message is implied even if it isn’t overtly stated, although I’m sure many times it will be stated.
Nothing stops a pastor from stepping outside the church and making his own views known as a private citizen, and the government does have an obligation to maintain freedom of religion which requires a separation of church and state so they are well within their constitutional powers to forbid pastors from using the pulpit for politics.