Churches in America, along with a multitude of other recognized religious, non-profit, and charitable organizations, enjoy a complete exemption from federal, state and local taxation since they are considered by the government to serve public purposes.
The result of this generous government largess particularly favoring religion is that many churches and pastors have become filthy rich while paying absolutely no taxes on contributions, real estate, personal property and income on investments. The Catholic Church in America, and many Protestant denominations, for example is exceedingly wealthy because of its tax exempt status.
But there are certain reasonable requirements for such organizations to acquire tax exempt status; each organization must apply for the privilege and agree to abide by a few simple rules. Churches in particular, in order to keep their tax exempt status, must not conduct political campaign activities or intervene in elections for public office.
Of course, churches and pastors have the same First Amendment free speech rights as the rest of us taxpaying slaves but we don’t enjoy tax exempt status. If pastors want to conduct political activities in their churches they certainly can, but in that event they should in all fairness become just like you and me – tax payers.
If churches can become political entities and retain their tax exempt status, then perhaps all of us should enjoy that status.
But many churches and pastors want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to play politics from the pulpit and keep their tax exempt status. They aren’t satisfied unless they have it both ways.
They’re going to bite the hand that feeds them.
More than 1,000 pastors are planning to challenge the IRS next month by deliberately preaching politics ahead of the presidential election despite a federal ban on endorsements from the pulpit. They hope their deliberate defiance of the rules will prompt the IRS to enforce the 1954 tax code amendment that prohibits tax-exempt organizations, such as churches, from making political endorsements.
Alliance Defending Freedom said it wants the IRS to press the matter so it can be decided in court. The group believes the law violates the First Amendment by “muzzling” preachers. “The purpose is to make sure that the pastor -- and not the IRS -- decides what is said from the pulpit," explains their spokesman, Erik Stanley. “It is a head-on constitutional challenge.”
He said pastors attending the Oct. 7 “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” will “preach sermons that will talk about the candidates running for office” and then “make a specific recommendation.” The sermons will be recorded and sent to the IRS.
“I’m very concerned about the spiritual side of this,” said San Diego pastor Jim Garlow. “There’s a phenomenon occurring in America and that’s a loss of religious liberty… If I would have said 50 years that ‘Tearing up a baby in the womb is a bad thing people would have said ‘Of course it is’… But If I said that today, people would say ‘Pastor, you’re being too political.”
What a load of bull.
Pastors can talk about the “evils” of abortion from their pulpits until the moon falls out of the sky and not risk the loss of their tax exempt status. They can talk about anything they want. But if they want to keep that precious status which the rest of us cannot have then they can’t exhort their congregations to vote for candidate X instead of candidate Y, or use church contributions to contribute to political campaigns.
In any case they do not lose their First Amendment rights.
Personally, I sure hope they follow through on their IRS challenge. I hope the IRS cancels the tax exempt status of every church and every pastor who participates. I hope their congregations scream to the rafters when their organizations now have to pay taxes like the rest of us poor slobs. And I hope they lose their case in court because it is as baseless, meritless, and frivolous as any court case I’ve ever heard of.
It’s about time that religious organizations in America are taught a lesson not to bite the hand that feeds them.