Update: All Saints’ Resists IRS Persecution, Refuses to Turn Over Records.
As the L. A. Times reports here, All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Pasadena, CA is refusing to turn over all its records to the IRS as requested. Good on ’em. As the article shows, even Richard Land, of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, a cheerleader for the Iraq war and someone who has greatly weakened Baptists’ historic defense religious liberty, recognizes the IRS as abusing its power! As I previously posted, All Saints did not endorse a candidate (something forbidden to tax-exempt non-profits in the U.S.), but simply preached a peace sermon in the last election cycle. Churches have ALWAYS been able to preach on political ISSUES (but not endorse candidates or parties). The IRS is attempting to intimidate any church that is critical of the government. If they get away with it today for anti-war sermons, tomorrow they may come after churches that oppose abortion (or support it, depending on who is in office), or express any opinion on any controversial matter!
Many churches do abuse their tax-exempt status by explicit political campaigning and should either stop or be willing to give up tax-exemption. But if a church cannot discuss moral issues or take stands on controversial matters, its ability to fulfill the prophetic dimension of ministry is dulled. (This has been my major criticism of government funding of faith-based initiatives: What the government funds it can control.) Just because All Saints used a creative drama to have “Jesus” debate “Bush” and “Kerry,” does not mean they endosrsed a candidate. How many churches would’ve been fined or lost their tax exempt status in the ’90s for criticizing Bill Clinton’s adulterous affairs if this standard had been used???
I share All Saints’ peace views, but no matter our views on peace and war, we should unite with our sisters and brothers in resisting this clear government abuse of power.
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