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Pulpit Freedom Sunday not likely to get an 'amen' from IRS ... or congregants

For members of some churches this Sunday, their church is no sanctuary from politics.

A group of ministers, around 35 at last count, will tell their congregations to vote for either Barack Obama or John McCain. This so-called Pulpit Freedom Sunday message is a direct challenge to the tax law that prohibits tax-exempt organizations from participating in overtly political activities.

It also might not be as welcome as the clergy might think, according to a recent poll on combining religion and politics. More on this survey in a bit.

Free speech or tax free? The tax law at issue was added to the Internal Revenue Code in 1954 as a way to keep nonprofits from funneling money and resources to political candidates.

Churchstateseparation_2 Under the statute, the IRS can revoke the tax exempt status of churches (and other 501(c)(3) organizations) that express support or opposition to candidates for public office.

The ministers, however, say the law violates their First Amendment right of free speech.

As blogged back in June, today's Pulpit Freedom Sunday is the brainchild of the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a conservative legal group that wants to provoke a legal challenge to the no-church-politicking law.

'Appropriate' action expected: The IRS says that it is aware of Pulpit Freedom Sunday and "will monitor the situation and take action as appropriate." The ADF, however, might not get precisely what it wants.

Some tax law experts say that it is more likely that the organizing group and its lawyers, not today's participating ministers, will face legal sanctions. The clergy probably will get off with IRS warnings to avoid politicking in the future.

Keep 'em separated: Regardless of what happens on the tax front, the ADF has achieved at least one goal: publicity. And while some ministers sincerely believe that political as well as religious guidance is part of their mission, many other folks no doubt agree with Sensen No Sen, who sees today's pulpit politics as More Cynical Manipulation of Religious Voters.

I'm trying not to be too cynical. Yeah, I know; call me crazy. But even if the Constitutional motive is genuine, I think the ADF is wrong.

Everyone is entitled to individual spiritual and political opinions. But our country's founders were correct in calling for the separation of church and state. That means if you're counting on religious status to get out of paying taxes, then you've got a choice to make. Zip it when you're in your official tax-free pulpit or pay up and promote your point of view by whatever method you please.

You can read more about Pulpit Freedom Sunday in:

And read more on IRS efforts to educate tax-exempt groups about tax law in IRS issues word on churches & politics.

Pulpit politics not that popular: The ADF might want to check out the numbers from a poll conducted this summer by LifeWay Research, a part of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"There is a longstanding and publicly affirmed view that the pulpit is not the place for politics, particularly endorsements," said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research. "It would appear this view is still widely held in most sectors of society."

LifeWay Research's telephone poll conducted in June found that most Americans believe churches should not campaign for or endorse political candidates and pastors should only endorse candidates as private citizens outside of a church service.

When asked for their level of agreement with the statement, "I believe it is appropriate for churches to publicly endorse candidates for public office," 59 percent said they strongly disagreed while 16 percent somewhat disagreed.


As for using church resources, 85 percent disagreed with the statement, "I believe it is appropriate for churches to use their resources to campaign for candidates for public office." Of that group, 73 percent disagreed strongly.

What about the tax status issue? When the topic turned to whether churches that publicly endorse candidates should lose their tax-exempt status, a slim majority agreed with current tax law.

Thirty-eight percent strongly agreed and 14 percent somewhat agreed that churches who publicly endorse candidates for public office should lose their tax exemption. Twenty-five percent strongly disagreed, 17 percent somewhat disagreed and 6 percent weren't sure.


You can find more results from the  LifeWay Research survey here.


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Sarah Johnson

Humorous to see the likes of LifeWay Christian Resources as the research firm conducting this survey. This organization is "nonprofit" and that is a joke. They basically push everything they can for their top and bottom line. Almost everyone at the top of the foodchain has written some kind of book that they then push through the LifeWay stores and online. These people act like they are doing their jobs for the churches - it's actually for themselves. They are pompous biggots who are looking for their high paid salaries and bonuses. I do not say this lightly - this is from inside information.


Belicoso--Comparing members of the clergy who, wrongly or rightly, are attempting to shepard their flock to degenerates like Anna Nicole and Wesley Snipes is too far a stretch...

H. B.

The people conducting this campaign MEAN BUSINESS. And the business they mean is to turn America into a theocracy. You will please note that almost all those who support mixing politics and pulpit are in the absolutist-cult sector. The numbers of those who strongly disagree that politics and pulpit should mix are simply too large to exclude ALL religious people. The "strongly agree" bunch constitute our absolutists. Our real Christians are not a part of this. They've been responsible all along.

Which means the absolutist movement, started back when we first had TV preachers, already OWNS 1/4 of the minds of Americans. Absolutist Christianity is an eslavement movement - not the physical kind; the mental kind. Blowing minds is their goal, to gain an utterly reliable political base with which to take over America. FROM WITHIN. Not to mention enriching themselves rather a lot.

These leaders care NOTHING for their "flock" except in their role as a political TOOL. By now, we should ALL know how very BAD religious-based governments are. Oppression is only where the BAD stuff begins. Theocracies are absolute power, which, as we know, corrupts absolutely. Yet it is irresistible to these cult leaders.

If that doesn't scare the pants off you, it should. Because they are succeeding, on a large scale.

What we need is a strong movement to teach the public to be analytical, to DO THEIR HOMEWORK before leaping, and to recognize the things that tell them someone is trying to "wazoo" them. Education is therefore of VITAL importance, particularly where we have large populations of ignorant and illiterate people.

If these cults had to be responsible and accountable, they would lose much of their "flock." They'd die a natural death. Without the prospect of gaining wealth and political power any more, the leaders would lose interest.

But more is needed. For that, I recommend the teaching of the Scandanavian method of Freethinking. It is a very powerful - often painful - self-discipline. But it gives the person the ability to see past hype and propaganda, and reach for knowledge of true reality. Harsh and difficult it may be, but few people are unable to learn and use it. The reward is knowledge, and readiness for what genuine realitity may dish out next, rather than vulnerability to it.

Freethinking is therefore very important, but very MUCH worth it. FYI, Freethinking on the Web is usually claimed by atheist groups. This is NOT real Freethinking. No religious views are supported by Freethinking, because it isn't a platform; it's a method, a discipline. There are many Freethinking people who are religious. But none would consider these absolutist cults; not once they'd done their research on them.

We must do MORE than thwart this effort they are making. We must thwart their existence - not through oppressing them, but through calling them to account, by creating limits and enforcing SOME level of accountability on them.

As things are now, they could easily take over our country in a decade or two. These people are downright DANGEROUS to our entire democracy. They intend to be. Sitting by, letting things go on the way they have, will doom our democracy and our freedoms. Doubt this? Just look at all that Bush has been able to subtract from our Constitutional rights already. And he is not leading a theocratic government. If we turned theocratic, we'll be plunged back into the Dark Ages.

From the moment Bush took the oath, the absolutists were out there, oppressing US to comply with their dogmas. Tho it slowed down, it's still with us. But Bush isn't a theocratic president; he has limited ability to drive absolutist agendas down our throats. Now that Bush is about to go, and it doesn't look good that Palin can do much, and probably won't get elected anyway, the cults are making this huge PUSH to retain their influence in our federal government. It was predictable.

The only question now is whether we'll let them continue blowing American minds.

Auto da fe, anyone?


The men of the cloth can't have it both ways. You can't get a free ride while endorsing a particular candidate. I expect such rule defiance from celebrities like Anna Nicole Smith and her frivolous lawsuits and forum shopping, or Wesley Snipes and his millions in tax evasion, but I expect a higher level of morality from my clergymen. Looks like someone needs to get to confession.

Jeff Day

As unusual as it may seem, I completely disagree with the article and the 1st comment. I will believe that the IRS wants to limit politicizing from the pulpits when Jesse Jackson has been arrested and his non-profit organizations shut down. I will believe the IRS is sincere in limiting non-profits when the likes of Al Sharpton has been sent to prison.

Realize the legislation that prohibited the clergy was written by non other than Lyndon Baines Johnson, it was authored in a way to limit those who would most likely be conservative in their thought processes.

And now the liberal democrat politicians want to shut down "talk radio". What else are they going to do to keep the populace from hearing the truths instead of their agenda to bring the US to total socialism?

Jeff Day EA
Evansville, IN


It's simple, remove all special tax exempt status from all religious organizations. If God wants His organization to be funded, He is surely powerful enough where He can easily do so with out me and an unnecessary decrease in federal and local revenues, possibly through supernatural manipulation. Why does God need a Congress? More importantly, aren't donations supposed to be a form of sacrifice? Why am I being forced to participate in this sacrifice and why are Churches asking to have this sacrifice weakened? Is this not like back in the day when the Ancient Hebrews practiced animal sacrifice for them to be asking for a leg back? "I want to give to my God to show my love and devotion, but I also want a little of that back from everyone else's pocket." Isn't that what tax exempt status is? It just shows the weakness of the whole God thing in my opinion. Christians should be out there demanding tax exempt status be lifted from them like a burden pointing out the weakness of God and His followers.

Finally, politicians come under the heading of Earthly Princes, and I don't think that it is wise to take sides when it comes to endorsing one of these, in fact the Bible clearly says not to.

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