Monday, March 13, 2006

When Pastors Attack with The IRS

Fascinating. One group of pastors calls on the IRS to investigate two pastors they don't agree with politically. The chosen weapon? The IRS. OpinionJournal's Brendan Miniter has the story:
Earlier this year, 31 Ohio pastors called down the most powerful force they could find against two of their fellow church leaders in Columbus. No, it wasn't God--but close.

In a complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service, the pastors alleged that the Rev. Russell Johnson and the Rev. Rod Parsley crossed the line into advocacy over the past year by preaching on political topics, initiating a voter registration drive and associating with Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a Republican who is now running for governor.

Both Mr. Johnson and Mr. Parsley are fighting back, arguing that they've done nothing wrong by speaking out on what they see as moral, not just political, issues. If the IRS agrees with their accusers, however, the World Harvest Church and the Fairfield Christian Church could lose their tax-exempt status. It would be unusual for the IRS to mete out this kind of punishment, but as gay marriage, abortion and the war in Iraq increasingly draw religious leaders into politics, such complaints may become more common.
Where you aware that you lose first amendment rights when you enter the pulpit?
Telling pastors what topics they may and may not address from the pulpit would seem to be a violation of the First Amendment, but IRS lawyers say that the churches implicitly accept such limitations in exchange for being tax exempt. Becket Fund spokesman Jared Leland argues that pastors cannot be forced to give up their right to free speech.
I think the first amendment speaks clearly on this situation [emphasis added]:
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.

1 comment:

  1. Two things:

    The law on this applies to all non-profits, not just churches. What the law says is that organizations have a choice. If they wish to accept tax deductilbe donations from individuals then they have to agree not to participate in advocating the election of individuals to public office and they have to severely curtail any efforts to impact public policy.

    This law was passed in either the 50s or 60s specifically because folks in Washington didn't want churches becoming political organizations.

    Secondly, I believe that churches should be involved in public policy and I believe that the seperation of church and state is meant to keep the state out of the church instead of keeping the church out of the state.