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Pastors Plan Political-Pulpit Blitz to Challenge IRS Ban

Conservative pastors aren't waiting for the IRS to pick a fight— they're taking the fight to the IRS by asserting their self-declared constitutional right to endorse candidates from the pulpit.

The Alliance Defense Fund, which calls itself the antithesis of the ACLU, has organized "Pulpit Freedom Sunday." On September 28, recruited religious leaders will give political sermons, endorsing or opposing politicians by name and in violation of their nonprofit status. The ADF hopes the IRS will then drag the clergy into federal court, presenting a chance to challenge on First Amendment grounds the tax-collectors' rule against political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of worship.

A different set of Christian and Jewish leaders have asked the IRS to step in before the ADF's plan to tell believers how to vote can happen. Two pastors in Ohio have asked pastors to use the weekend before the challenge to preach about the value of church-state separation.

Would you rather see freedom of speech or separation of church and state win this legal battle?


Join The Conversation
teegolfer teegolfer 8 years
How can anyone support or vote for John McCain for President when he openly curses women in his role of Senator? One of many examples can be seen at where he uses the most denigrating language. Specifically view his words directed to Ms. Delores Alfond – Chair National Alliance of Families during the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs . Please tell me you don't support this behavior!! We need a President that respects women and men and can control his Alpha Male cursing when conducting his role as US Senator and refrain from cursing in his position of power and especially toward women. Can we truly believe John McCain is pro-life when he displays such a distain for women?
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
IMO, churches should be considered for tax exempt status based soley on their income. If they are truly a not-for-profit, then no matter what political affiliation they prescribe to, they are good. If they are generating a large profit, and not giving to the poor or needy (mega-churches anyone??), then they shouldn't get the tax exempt status.
snowbunny11 snowbunny11 8 years
I don't even get how this is a freedom of speech issue at all? It's not like they are being penalized for speaking their minds; they just wouldn't receive a benefit, tax-exempt status! In my mind, the fact that these churches get tax-exempt status in the first place seems to violate the separation of church and state, so if a church wants to go ahead and advocate for or against certain candidates, that's stretching it even further.
stephley stephley 8 years
Actually, it would be nice if churches stuck to religion - worshipping, making sure that people knew what the ten commandments are - and spent less time trying to interpret the news for the congregation. A devout congregation, well-versed in the beliefs of its religion, should not need specific political education from the pulpit. They should instinctively know what's right or wrong based on their beliefs.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 8 years
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a church endorsing a view point and why they can't seem to do that with out mentioning a campaign or candidate in the process in my opinion expresses a serious retardation of imagination and creativity on their part or just good old fashioned stubborness. In either case they need to cut it out, express their views on various issues like they always have and leave party, campaign and candidate affiliation out of it. Honestly do they think we're really that daft that we won't know what or whom they're talking about. The churches need to have a little more faith in our intelligence and a little less contempt for the Federal Gov. considering the freedom that is gifted to them by our Gov. in the first place.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
That wasn't directed towards you. I saw a story on the news about Catholic priests advocating for Democrats, regardless of their views on abortion. I was also adding an anecdote.
stephley stephley 8 years
I didn't say anything about political affiliation. It's been in the news lately so seemed an easy illustration of my meaning.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
Many Catholic parishes also make express statements for Democrats and against Republicans. This is a two-way street.
stephley stephley 8 years
Discuss it all you want, just don't start specifically naming people the congregation should vote for. Jill's right, many churches already live right on the edge of this line - Catholic priests who publicly refuse to give pro-choice politicians the sacraments or who question whether they should be allowed to receive, certainly step over it backwards. But if they don't pretend to honor the separation of church and state, they should forfeit being tax exempt and any other consideration they get. No faith-based funding, nothing.
stiletta stiletta 8 years
I still think that church has an obligation to discuss any issue that affects their congregation. What about abortion? I can't think of a single greater public discussion that affects people's belief system than that. Should the church remain silent on this issue? They don't have to tell people how to vote, but what about telling them where the candidate's stand on this?
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
I agree with Jill for the most part. I also think some people are overlooking an important part of this rule: The rule states that churches (or any non-profits) cannot expressly advocate for or against a candidate, not that non-profits cannot discuss political issues.
Jillness Jillness 8 years
I don't think churches are held back by this rule. In fact, I think it is a completely unbalanced trade off in their favor. They don't have to pay taxes on vast amounts of income, all in exchange for not mentioning names?
Jillness Jillness 8 years
What in the world makes them think that they should be able to do this, and still keep tax exempt status? Don't they realize how vital tax exemption is to their income? Don't they know what a unique set up they have going for them? Religious institutions make BILLIONS of dollars...breaking the law before changing the law is a very risky move, and foolish in my opinion.
stiletta stiletta 8 years
I don't know. The church is a part of the community and does play an active role in their congregation's attitude on many topics; marriage, work, etc. IMHO, I don't see how a church offering it's opinion on a political matter should be punished. It's not as though the church is threatening their followers. Once you're outside your house of worship, you can do whatever you want. I don't know, it just seems like an unnecessary and unenforceable gag rule.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
I agree that clergy should not be forbidden to speak about whatever they feel they need to from the puplit, even if the subject is politics. I think they need to be careful when they do that, though, because not everyone in the congregation agrees with them. Long gone are the days when clergy are considered the purveyors of knowledge on all subjects. Most people in the aisles know when a pastor is blowing them smoke. I listen to a guy blow me smoke twice a month. (My wife preaches the other two, and I wouldn't dare comment on her pastoral orations) ;)
Gluu Gluu 8 years
Pastors, priests or rabbis should be able to say whatever they like from the pulpit, and remain tax exempt. There are plenty of religious leaders on both sides of any debate, and their own interpretation of their religion forms their views. It's already pretty transparent depending on what church you attend. I think the only law should be that candidates cannot make donations to any church.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
It'll be fun to watch the IRS drag them into court after they've knowingly violated the conditions of their tax-exempt status. (I never thought I'd put "IRS" and "fun" in the same sentence, but there you go.) And as far as separating political endorsements from the pulpit, everyone's already said what I would have, only better. :)
stephley stephley 8 years
Say what you want from the pulpit, just be willing to cough up taxes in exchange for your free speech.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
Candidates talking about religion is entirely different to me. While I don't care much about what candidates have to say about religion, I don't think it should be disallowed. It's separation of church and STATE, not separation of church and POLITICS. And if a church wants to advocate for a particular candidate and still call itself a church, that's fine. But, that church shouldn't be considered a non-profit.
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
Thanks you MSucre "Sepration of Church and State" works from both sides and I totally agree with yoru comment. Priest/Clergymen pushing thier personal political agenda in the "cloth of God" is a little unsettling, and the implications in this particular Presidental Campaign well a big deal. I also think that the Church has a point why not campaigns tend to bring there personal lives/church lives with them should address the fact that many candiates say the word "God" and talk about " Faith based" this and that and that is also in direct conflict with the "Seprataion of Churcg and State" when you are speaking as a Senator/Presidental Canidate then I want to hear about the issue, and not what God had to do with you getting to this point.
raciccarone raciccarone 8 years
I agree, 'kimbo. They of course can say whatever they want outside of the pulpit, but to say God endorses a particular candidate ... well, my friend, that's where I would like you to meet my friend, Mr. IRS. That's what I'm saying!
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
Interestingly, while this group includes only conservative pastors, I have personally sat through many sermons that either expressly advocated for Democratic candidates or advocated for Democratic candidates through a very thin veil.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
I think there's a fine line. To me, it's OK for a priest or member of the clergy to advocate a particular candidate in his or her personal life. I understand that when you are a clergy member, you are always in your clergy member role to some extent, however, I think it is OK for members of the clergy to advocate for candidates at non-church sanctioned events. To me, that would be similar to a board member or CEO of any other non-profit advocating for a candidate in his or her personal life. However, advocating from the pulpit is wrong and should not be tolerated.
MSucre MSucre 8 years
Separation of Church and State. If a pastor or priest makes a comment about politics, it gives the impression that a person's moral or religious integrity depends on their vote! That is a dangerous link!
raciccarone raciccarone 8 years
No one is stopping them from endorsing candidates, but if you are a church and you affiliate yourself with a political party, you are no longer consider a church and therefore lose your tax exempt status. Go ahead and publicly endorse whoever you want, but get those 1040s ready come April, cause my tax dollars shouldn't support a group that advocates one political candidate over another. Unless it's directly through the government.
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