Levellers

Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

IRS Persecutes Church for Peace Sermon

Under U.S. tax law, churches, like other non-profits, cannot engage in direct political activity such as endorsing particular parties or candidates for office. However, under the First Amendment’s protections on both free speech and free excercise of religion, churches have ALWAYS been able to discuss political issues and critique policies. Yet, the IRS is now investigating All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, CA for a 2004 sermon which the IRS claims was too political in criticizing the war in Iraq.

All those who care about religious liberty, no matter what your views on the war, should be in open support of All Saints’ Church. If today a church can lose its tax-exempt status for preaching against war, tomorrow it can do so for criticizing environmental policy and the day after for its views on abortion (pro or con). The freedom of the pulpit is at stake. Write your representatives and local papers about this today.

September 17, 2006 - Posted by | church-state separation, peace

4 Comments

  1. 1. I wonder how the IRS came to know the content of the sermon?

    2. Was the “debate” between Jesus, Kerry and Bush that was mentioned the only thing they objected to? That seems exceedingly weak.

    Comment by Dan Trabue | September 17, 2006

  2. I think someone there at the sermon sent it to the IRS. This was big news last year and then the IRS seemed to drop the case until just now.

    Yes, it seems weak. I think the White House told them to go after All Saints in an attempt to intimidate other churches and others. Criticism of the war or of Bush’s policies gets an instant crackdown. We cannot stand by and let this happen.

    You’ll notice that the IRS let’s blatant campaigning by the Right happen all the time.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | September 17, 2006

  3. Count me in. Some people think since churches are “subsidized”, that is, given tax-exempt status, the gov’t has a right to keep them politically neutral. I disagree. I believe in tax-exempting any donation to charity (I know ‘any’ is a strong word and may be able to find exception somewhere), but that way, any non-profit, like a church, can say what they want without fear of reprisal. This is indeed a threat to religious liberty.

    Comment by Chance | September 21, 2006

  4. Chance, I believe in forbidding nonprofits from endorsing particular candidates. If a church or other nonprofit wants to endorse particular candidates or spend more than 20% (I think that’s the %) of their time and money on lobbying Congress, then they should give up their tax-exempt status and register as a political lobby. I know some churches which have done so.

    But All Saints Church clearly did NOT endorse a candidate. And the IRS code has NEVER meant that nonprofits could not discuss or take positions on ISSUES. This is a violation of free exercise.

    Comment by Michael Westmoreland-White | September 21, 2006


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