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Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, October 7, 2012

1,400 Pastors to Bait IRS Today on 'Pulpit Freedom Sunday'

Today is the fifth annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday, as1,400 pastors plan to discuss politics and candidates in their sermons, flouting the law against campaigning by churches.

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This is not a free speech issue, it is a tax issue. The facts are these.

1. Donations to religious organizations and churches are tax deductible
2. Donations to political organizations and for political causes are not tax deductible.
3. Allow a church to use its religious services to promote political candidates converts a non-deductible contribution into a deductible one.

Religious organizations who supposedly answer to a higher moral authority than the rest of us should be the first to reject using tax deductible donations for purposes that are not tax deductible.

How long before Karl Rove founds the Church of the Holy Conservatives, gets 501(c)(3) status and can advertise that everyone's donations to his political causes are tax deductible? Next year? 2014? Of course Karl will throw in a little non-denominational preaching to make things kosher (pun intended).

Posted by: David R. | Oct 7, 2012 9:24:52 AM

until you tell obama and hillery and gore and all the other democraps that go to "minority" churches and preach the liberal way that they are violating something
get back to us

Posted by: bill | Oct 7, 2012 3:50:32 PM

There are black churches in Atlanta that regularly make the pulpits available to Democratic candidates for their campaign speeches. There are hundreds of examples. Here's two.

Valerie Jarrett Attacks GOP in Speech From MLK’s Church Pulpit

Obama speaks at Ebenezer Baptist Church

The IRS is noticeably looking the other way. The IRS should enforce the Tax Code for all churches and enforce it evenly.

Posted by: Woody | Oct 7, 2012 7:55:38 PM

A little history is helpful. Note that the political party that pushed the amendment to The Code is the same party that ignores it.

The History of The Johnson Amendment of 1954

The First Amendment clearly states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,…."

House Resolution 235 was designed to revise the IRS code to remove restrictions placed on churches and non-profit organizations in 1954 by then-Senator Lyndon Johnson. Prior to 1954, churches and non-profit organizations had no such restrictions on their freedom of speech or their right to speak out in favor or against political issues or candidates.

The history of Johnson’s IRS gag order is instructive. It began with what some historians believe to be a fraudulent election of Johnson to the Senate in 1948. It has been maintained by both conservative and liberal historians that Lyndon Johnson’s election to the Senate in 1948 was won by massive voter fraud. Known as “Landslide Lyndon,” this aspiring politician was “elected” by only 87 votes. His challenger, Coke Stevenson, challenged his election and presented credible evidence that hundreds of votes for Johnson had been faked. Johnson, however, was successful in blocking Stevenson’s effort by the clever use of “cooperative” court injunctions.

In 1954, Johnson was facing re-election to the Senate and was being aggressively opposed by two non-profit anti-Communist groups that were attacking Johnson’s liberal agenda. In retaliation, Johnson inserted language into the IRS code that prohibited non-profits, including churches, from endorsing or opposing candidates for political office. In effect, Senator Johnson used the power of the go-along Congress and the IRS to silence his opposition. Unfortunately, it worked. Some in Johnson’s staff claimed that Johnson never intended to go after churches, only the two “nonprofits” in Texas. Nevertheless, his sly amendment to the tax code affected every church in America, and it is a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. ....

Posted by: Woody | Oct 7, 2012 8:09:41 PM

I don't think that you have to worry about Karl Rove starting to act like George Soros (funding 501(c)(3) liberal political causes).

Posted by: fjdietz | Oct 8, 2012 5:00:32 AM

Tax the churches. Tax the hell out of them. Especially the megachurches. The separation of church and state was to keep religion OUT of governance of our nation.

Posted by: Ricochet | Oct 8, 2012 9:46:07 AM

Ricochet, would you provide legal support within our founding documents for your statement that the "separation of church and state was to keep religion OUT of governance of our nation." Why, that term doesn't even exist within them and was never the intent of our founders, who believed in God. Still today, Congress begins its sessions with prayer, and the President takes his oath of office with his hand on a Bible.

From the beginning of our nation, churches had always provided moral guidance for the governed and those who governed until Lyndon Johnson wanted to use the tax code to punish churches that might hurt his quest for power. That worked out real well for us, if you consider Johnson's presidency with the Vietnam war escalations, the wasteful and not-so-Great Society, and the damage to our economy. It's too bad that churches were hindered from doing more to stop him.

Posted by: Woody | Oct 8, 2012 12:32:42 PM

There's a problem with the fact that churches are tax exempt, and that is that atheists, agnostics, et al. are effectively being 'forced' to pay their share to support these 'private' institutions that do nothing but undermine their beliefs. There is something wrong with this. ALL CHURCHES NEED TO BE TAXED LIKE ANY OTHER PRIVATE CORPORATION - ABSOLUTELY NO SUBSIDIES FOR FANTASIES! Having said that, they could go ahead and bullshit to the delusional to their hearts content.

Posted by: JPTurcotte | Oct 8, 2012 1:25:28 PM

I have no problem with pastors being political as long as they have no problem paying real estate and income taxes.

Posted by: Rick | Oct 8, 2012 2:44:34 PM

Notice that most of the responses are missing the point, and using this Forum to spout their ideological and largely unsupported views.

The posted article raises two legitimate questions.

1. In the American society is it correct to allow donations to a religious organization to be tax deductible?

2. Is it appropriate to require religious organizations to refrain from conducting politics within the structure and framework of conducting their religious practices?

Notice there is no issue of freedom of speech here. Clergy are allowed to fully participate in the democratic process. The question is should they use resources supported by the government in the form of tax deductible contributions to promote political candidates?

Logic would say allowing the contributions to be tax deductible and requiring clergy to restrain from political activities while conducting religious services is a reasonable compromise.

Finally, if you want to participate in this Forum why not address the issues rather than using it as a platform for your own diatribes. If you want to sermonize (pun intended) start your own web site. I did

Posted by: David R. | Oct 8, 2012 6:43:25 PM

The state has no more right to tax churches than churches have authority to collect money from the government, which, by the way, was established in this land after the church.

Churches have provided charity to the poor and those in need, including atheists, for centuries and was the primary source of such aid until progressives, with their warped sense of caring with others' money, made the poor beholden to the state in exchange for votes. Citizens have gotten a lot more from churches than churches have gotten from government, and any rationale to tax churches has it backwards.

Posted by: Woody | Oct 8, 2012 8:09:10 PM

David R., you miss the point entirely and lack insight into the historical relationship with government and churches, which long precedes income tax laws.

Our government doesn't subsidize churches. Church finances are independent of government. Income tax benefits apply only to individuals who itemize and for which you have no statistics as to whether or not the subsidies, as you call them, affect their contributions.

Nevertheless, Congress voted to allow church contributions to be deductible, along with those to other charities, as a service to its constituents rather than churches, and to encourage charitable giving, which helps serve national interests and for which the churches do a lot more to help the poor than your ACLU.

Church leaders, in my view, have a duty to their congregations to help them choose between moral, Godly leaders and Democrats. Church leaders have a duty to the community to provide spiritual guidance and warnings, and that includes the politicians.

So, you can take your smug, self-serving slights and reserve them for your obscure blog.

Presidential Prayer Team

“1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior…” -1 Timothy 2:1-3

Posted by: Woody | Oct 9, 2012 9:01:07 PM

The ACLU is treated as a "charitable organization" for "good" like this: ACLU Pressuring Vice Presidential Debate Moderator To Emphasize GOP “War On Women.”

Posted by: Woody | Oct 11, 2012 5:53:32 AM