June 22, 2012 By Hemant Mehta
We know churches are tax-exempt. To the tune of $71,000,000,000 nationally. That exemption is contingent in part on the fact that they stay out of politics. They’re not allowed to endorse candidates.
So what happens when a pastor tells his congregation to vote for Mitt Romney? What happens when many, many, many pastors do it all at once?
That’s what’s been happening for years now as part of “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” (taking place this year on October 7th):
Pastor Jim Garlow will stand before congregants at his 2,000-seat Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, California, on Sunday, October 7, just weeks before the U.S. presidential and congressional elections, and urge his flock to vote for or against particular candidates.
Last year, 539 pastors participated [in Pulpit Freedom Sunday]. This year organizers expect far more. Participants want to force the matter to court as a freedom of speech and religion issue.
“I believe we’re on the early stages of the next great awakening,” Garlow told his congregation last year. “We’re going to see it just sweep across this nation.”
So what has the IRS done about all these egregious violations of the 501(c)(3) regulations?
… Although the agency has enforced the tax-exemption rules against churches in the past, it has so far ignored the provocations of Freedom Sunday.
The IRS has also been silent about the increasingly aggressive political activity of the U.S. Catholic bishops, who have called for their own Fortnight for Freedom this week. Masses, rallies, and parish bulletins are being mobilized against the Obama administration’s healthcare regulations on contraceptives.
The result of agency inaction, according to tax experts and former IRS staffers, will be a lot more electioneering by leaders of the faithful, in local races as well as national, and to the benefit of Democrats as well as Republicans.
“It will get worse unless the IRS takes action, and they seem reluctant,” said Nicholas Cafardi, dean emeritus and professor of law at Duquesne University and the longtime lawyer for the Catholic diocese of Pittsburgh.
The IRS did not respond to Reuters questions about its enforcement activities in recent years, or explain why they seem to have ended abruptly in 2009.
These churches are getting away with breaking the rules and flaunting it.
Even so, Garlow not only intends to break the rules, he also plans to spend the next four months recruiting other pastors to do the same as part of Pulpit Freedom Sunday. On that day each year since 2008, ministers intentionally try to provoke the IRS. Some even send DVD recordings of their sermons to the agency.
One argument is that the IRS is worried about losing a court challenge. Right now, the mere threat of revoking a church’s tax exemption may be preventing the pastors from endorsing politicians. Unfortunately, it’s an empty threat and the pastors know it. So they’re taking advantage of the IRS as well as all the people who would stand to benefit from the billions of dollars in money the churches owe us as taxpayers.
If the IRS simply enforced their own rules, they would be doing everybody a huge favor. We know most churches don’t give a damn about “equality” in any sense of the word, and we know they’re unable to police themselves on matters of ethics, but we have all the proof we need to revoke their tax exemptions.
Who knew IRS stood for “Ignore Rulebreaking Sermons”?