TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Pastor Who Preached Anti-War Sermon Criticizes IRS Attempt to Revoke Church's Exemption

The pastor who preached the anti-war sermon that is at issue in the IRS's threatened revocation of the church's tax-exempt status (blogged here and here) has published an op-ed in this morning's L.A. Times:  The Won't-Be-Bullied Pulpit; A Pasadena Cleric Cited by the IRS Refuses to Surrender "the Very Soul of Our Ministry":

I can't tell you how surprised and shocked I was — and how disappointed — when All Saints Church was informed that the sermon I preached on Oct. 31, 2004, might have constituted an impermissible intervention into a political campaign under the Internal Revenue Code. I gave the sermon on the Sunday before the presidential election. It was called, "If Jesus Debated Sen. Kerry and President Bush." In it, I took great care to say that I did not want to tell people how to vote, but that I was challenging them to go into the voting booth on Tuesday taking with them all that they knew about Jesus, the peacemaker. To take all that Jesus meant to them and then vote their deepest values.

No one from the IRS attended my sermon, to my knowledge. The agency apparently saw an article about it in The Times the following day. The Times described it as "an indictment of the Bush administration's policies on Iraq" and noted that I had criticized the drive to develop more nuclear weapons and described tax cuts that benefited the rich as "inimical to the values of Jesus." Based on that, the IRS made a subjective determination that the sermon implicitly opposed one candidate and endorsed another....

The rightful role of communities of faith is not to speak and act as though God is in the pocket of the Democratic or Republican parties. Our role is to boldly proclaim the biblical themes of justice for all, peace on Earth, the sacredness of all life and the preciousness and fragility of the environment.

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