God reportedly hates liars. So says the Holy Bible. And His Ninth Commandment specifically prohibits bearing false witness. So one would not expect a member of the clergy to lie, mislead, or obfuscate the truth, right?
Wrong. Lying, misleading and obfuscating the truth occur routinely when clergy talk about the IRS denying them their First Amendment rights.
I witnessed a bishop on Fox News Channel today who claimed that the IRS is coming after churches to take away their freedom of speech. The IRS will come after us if we preach politics from the pulpit, he whined. The government won’t let us tell our congregations what candidates to vote for. If we do they’ll come after us, he added.
This bishop of the church knows that’s not the truth. He knows that the IRS has no power to deny churches and clergy their fundamental right to free speech and free exercise of their religion as protected by the First Amendment.
The U.S. government may not deny churches and clergy the right to preach about anything they want, including politics, what political candidates to vote for, and what political issues to support or oppose. No government agent will “come after” him or his church if he preaches politics from the pulpit.
So what he said to the millions of people in the TV audience was flatly untrue.
He enjoys a constitutional right to preach politics just exactly the same as any other individual or group of individuals in the United States of America. That’s the whole truth. The church, clergy and this bishop know for certain then that the issue is not about First Amendment rights.
No, it’s about paying taxes.
The Constitution affirms their right to preach politics but there is nothing in the Constitution that gives them a right to enjoy tax exempt status. The bishop didn’t want to talk about that and consequently the subject was never brought up. He wants us to believe it’s all about freedom of speech – and nothing to do with taxes.
I pay my taxes. You pay your taxes. Every American pays taxes, except that some individuals, non-profit and religious organizations, including clergy, enjoy tax exempt status by federal statute. We the people decided that they should enjoy that status because of the so-called selfless benefits they provide to society by their activities.
But the law also specifies that if they engage overtly in poetical activities, such as telling their members who to vote for in elections and the like, then they are not entitled to tax exempt status. If they want to engage in politics they have to pay their taxes just like everyone else.
In short, We the People decided that Churches and clergy should best stick to preaching religion to their congregations and refrain from preaching politics from the pulpit if they want to continue to enjoy their generous exemption from paying the tax man. It’s not that they can’t preach politics. Of course they can. That’s their First Amendment Constitutional right. But if they do they’ll have to start paying tax like the rest of us tax slaves.
That’s the truth.
The bishop violated God’s ninth commandment.