Stand for religious free speech

Anti-religion group tried to recruit IRS as its attack dog

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When does a church sermon become “too political”?

More importantly, who gets to decide?

A prominent atheist/agnostic group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, believes it should be the Internal Revenue Service. It even sued the IRS in 2012 to try to force it to scrutinize the tax-exempt status of churches it believed were dabbling too much in politics.

The Wisconsin-based foundation – the same group that forced the city of Augusta to change how it conducts the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast series – voluntarily dropped the federal suit last month after reaching what it called a satisfactory agreement with the IRS.

If you would like to know exactly what that agreement says, you’re not alone.

The agreement has not been made public, nor has the IRS stated what new protocols, if any, it agreed to as part of the deal.

All anyone knows about the July 17 agreement is that the foundation is happy.

“This is a victory,” Foundation President Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a statement. “We’re pleased with this development in which the IRS has proved to our satisfaction that it now has in place a protocol to enforce its own anti-electioneering provisions.”

Be cautiously skeptical about that last part. We’ve seen what happens when the IRS is encouraged to challenge the tax-exempt status of organizations for their alleged political views. Does the name Lois Lerner ring a bell?

The reason all IRS investigations are currently on hold is because Lerner and her partisan lackeys targeted nonprofit Tea Party conservative groups.

Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said the foundation’s efforts
specifically are trying to silence the Christian community.

“Given the history of the IRS in harassing, persecuting and infringing on the First Amendment rights of Christians and other people of faith, this is a deeply disturbing development,” he said.

Was it not the preaching of religious leaders – Christians, particularly – that helped shape public policy issues such as
abolition and civil rights? Should the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. have been discouraged from speaking up?

This is precisely why the Founding Fathers sought to protect religious freedom of expression in the First Amendment. Interpretations of that constitutional right generally have held that clergy are free to preach and promote anything short of an outright endorsement of a political candidate.

But the foundation, which advocates strict separation of church and state, cited the so-called Johnson Amendment as the legal basis for its lawsuit involving a Milwaukee-area Anglican church. The tax code amendment – named for then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson – prohibits tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates.

The foundation’s goal was to have the IRS question churches and other houses of worship where priests, pastors, rabbis and other clergy preach on moral issues in a way that has “political implications,” according to Daniel Blomberg, legal counsel for the Becket Fund, which opposed the lawsuit.

“The IRS has implicitly recognized that it can’t punish houses of worship for a minister’s sermon to the congregation, but it constantly threatens enforcement without ever following through,” Blomberg told the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal. “And that’s why the Freedom From Religion Foundation sued – it wanted more than threats, it wanted censorship.”

The suit was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it can be revived at any time. And, again, whatever the IRS said it would or would not do to appease the foundation is still unknown.

So while the lawsuit’s dismissal looks on the surface like a victory for religious free speech, churches of all faiths should be concerned about the naked attempt of militant atheists to use one of the government’s most powerful agencies as its attack dog.

Americans can disagree about whether their religious leaders veer too far into the political realm. But most can also likely agree that the IRS has no business monitoring and censoring the sermons they hear.

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burninater
9941
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burninater 08/16/14 - 01:52 am
11
8
This editorial seems to be

This editorial seems to be suffering from a bit of confusion.

The IRS can't censor the content of a sermon. Period.

But the tax-exempt status of religion does not automatically extend to a tax-exempt status of campaigning for specific candidates. As the agency charged with enforcing tax law, determining when religion becomes campaigning is the IRS' job. This didn't start with a lawsuit.

You want to be a tax exempt religious group? Fine.
You want to advocate for certain candidates? Also fine.
But you want to claim advocating for certain candidates is a tax-exempt religious activity? No sir.

Bodhisattva
7212
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Bodhisattva 08/16/14 - 04:35 am
8
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Agreed burn. That's the same

Agreed burn. That's the same deal with the Tea Party, which this story just happened to be is my email from in the last day or so (from the right wing think thanks, PAC's, and political groups, straight to the Chronicle's editorials). You can be a tax exempt "social welfare organization" or religious group, or a political organization that pays taxes, not both. Actually, you can be a tax exempt political organization, you just are required to disclose your donors. That's what the Tea Party fears since they are nothing but tools of big money donors.

seenitB4
97787
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seenitB4 08/16/14 - 04:59 am
9
5
Oh please...

Tools of big money my fanny!

Hah, you should see some of these regular folks....they are just tired of taxes & give a ways. MO taxes paying for MO babies kind of thing.

myfather15
56916
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myfather15 08/16/14 - 05:26 am
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4
Unbelieveable!!

So, Burninator; if a Pastor gives a sermon against abortion, is he advocated for the anti-abortion candidate? What if his sermon is against homosexuality, which the Bible specifically speaks against? Is he endorsing the conservative candidate? One could easily say he is, even if the Pastor never mentions a single name during his sermon!! Then, it would be left up to people like Lois Lerner to decide whether he was, or wasn't!! THAT, is scary!!

It's astounding that more people can't see this for exactly what it is; the left doing their usual thing and suppressing the oppositions voice, using threats and liberal judges!! May I remind people of how God's Word warns us they will attack, like "a scorpion stingeth a man"; meaning to melt or dissolve their spine, so they can't stand up!! Try standing up without a spine, it won't happen!! Leftist regimes have done this throughout history and history always repeats itself!! It just took a little longer for them to learn how to get around the Constitution in this Country; but now they've discovered how to twist and spin around the Constitution!!

Now, they've discovered a way of telling Pastor's what they can preach about on Sundays!!

God help us!!

Bodhisattva
7212
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Bodhisattva 08/16/14 - 05:40 am
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The Constitution says you

The Constitution says you have freedom to practice your religion. It doesn't say anything about churches, which many have turned into big businesses, being exempt from taxes. That's based solely on them supposedly being charities, so they should only receive tax exemptions on the portion of their revenue they spend on charitable work.

myfather15
56916
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myfather15 08/16/14 - 06:13 am
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3
Yes, the Constitution says we

Yes, the Constitution says we have freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion!! Which means just because you hear them saying something that offends you, doesn't mean you have the right to silence them!!

myfather15
56916
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myfather15 08/16/14 - 06:21 am
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2
Trust me on this one,

I'm NOT a fan of Churches, I'm a follower of God!!! I would also agree than many Pastors and Churches have become rich off the congregation's donations; but even those Churches have done great service for their communities and the world!! And a poltical bureaucrat has no business telling a Church what the content of their sermon should be!!

"The Constitution says you have freedom to practice your religion."

Funny you should mention this, as the Constitution doesn't actually say "Seperation of Church and State"!! Which, I believe this would be a clearn example of!! The government needs to stay out of the Churches business!!

myfather15
56916
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myfather15 08/16/14 - 06:25 am
3
2
But, let them keep going; as this is how is HAS to be!!

He is giving them enough rope to hang themselves, with their own FREE WILL!!

When judgment comes (And it IS coming) people can only be held accountable for their actions and decisions made with FREE WILL!! These people will have absolutely no excuse, when that day comes; as free will removes all excuses!!

curly123053
5378
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curly123053 08/16/14 - 06:38 am
4
1
Like myfather says, the US

Like myfather says, the US Constitution says freedom Of religion, not freedom from religion! End of story!! I have been saying this for years.

ymnbde
10675
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ymnbde 08/16/14 - 06:44 am
4
2
"Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's,

and unto God the things that are God's"
free speech was endowed by God
and that freedom was acknowledged by our government
freedom of religion was endowed by God
and that freedom was acknowledged by our government
any attempt to tax either freedom will not be met by a changing of God
but a changing of Caesar
the world under Obama and his psychOphants is truly chaotic
he has harmed the entire world

deestafford
32007
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deestafford 08/16/14 - 06:50 am
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The IRS even asked these groups...

The IRS even asked these groups what were the contents of their prayers!
That is unbelievable when a government bureaucrat is basing its decision on what is in their prayers. The Founders are spinning in their graves. Marx is cheering as is Madelline Murray. On whose side would you want to be?

deestafford
32007
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deestafford 08/16/14 - 07:00 am
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1
The Constitution does not say we are free to practice....

The Constitution does not say we are free to practice our religion. The world practice is nowhere in it.

The Constitution says,"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...."

The purpose of this phrase is for the federal government not to establish a state religion. It did not prevent the states from establishing a state religion which many did in their constitutions.

It's only through the manipulation of laws by anti-Christian, activists judges that we are in the fix we are in today. If one looks at the statistics of society morals since the separation of religious principle from out schools in 1962 one sees a steep increase in things such as unmarried teen pregnancies, divorce, violent crime, gonorrhea among young teens, unmarried couples shacking up; while, there was a decrease in SAT scores.

There may or may not be a causation but there is definitely a correlation.

deestafford
32007
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deestafford 08/16/14 - 07:06 am
4
1
While we are on the subject of churches and politics...

While we are on the subject of churches and politics let's address the double standard whereby black churches are allowed to be political and the white churches are not.

Black churches are the hub of political activity in their communities with pamphlets, leaflets, and politician speakers with no talk of taking away their tax exemptions.

I think that is the way it should be in all churches and I applaud the black churches for standing up for what they believe and wish more white churches would have the guts to do the same.

The thing is the white preachers can preach against many issues facing our country without mentioning and candidate or party...just the issues if they had the guts to speak out and "not want to offend anyone".

I heard in my younger days that if a preacher's sermon is not making the people's butts squirm in the pew it's a poor sermon.

robaroo
884
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robaroo 08/16/14 - 07:14 am
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1
IRS Should Honestly Check Organizations

When the IRS does its job right, it should check to see if organizations really meet the rules for being tax exempt. Otherwise, we would have the Church of I Want To Be Tax Free.

But it needs to follow the rules set up by congress and not base its decisions off of whose politics the administrators like.

deestafford
32007
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deestafford 08/16/14 - 08:05 am
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0
robaroo makes a good point...

robaroo makes a good point. What we need is for Congress to do its job and clarify the meaning of "tax exempt" and not leave it up to the bureaucrats at the IRS, who have a political bias as we all do, or the courts.

Congress needs to take back its power and responsibilities it has abrogated over the years.

No longer does Congress with the consent of the people run the country as was the intention of the Founders.

The country is run by agencies and faceless bureaucrats who have developed such power that many citizens curl up in a fetal position of fear when the agency calls.

That is not the way a country such as ours should operate.

cush1944
14632
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cush1944 08/16/14 - 07:39 am
4
1
" But you want to claim

" But you want to claim advocating for certain candidates is a tax-exempt religious activity? No sir."
burn, I agree but then most black churches would not be tax-exempt!!

carcraft
28495
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carcraft 08/16/14 - 07:46 am
3
0
So if "political " is taxable

So if "political " is taxable can a pastor preach about social justice? What about when Obama's old buddy Wright screams "G-- d---- America " oz that political speech? Is advocating for illegal immigrants political speech? Government has no business per the Constitution of restricting the practice of religion. Period (disclaimer: unlike Obama's period this period actually means period!

soapy_725
44121
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soapy_725 08/16/14 - 07:50 am
0
0
If you take federal grant money, they can tell you what to do.
Unpublished

If you take federal grant money, they can tell you what to do.

soapy_725
44121
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soapy_725 08/16/14 - 07:51 am
0
0
Churches want federal money, just not federal controls.
Unpublished

Churches want federal money, just not federal controls.

soapy_725
44121
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soapy_725 08/16/14 - 07:52 am
0
0
You can't love GOD and MONEY. But some try to.
Unpublished

You can't love GOD and MONEY. But some try to.

soapy_725
44121
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soapy_725 08/16/14 - 07:53 am
0
0
The role of the church is to make disciples of all men/women.
Unpublished

To lead the lost to Jesus Christ. The "core business" of God's People.

curly123053
5378
Points
curly123053 08/16/14 - 07:59 am
4
1
IRS = SS

The IRS has gotten to political. This was NOT supposed to be the case. The IRS today compares to the SS of the Nazi regime in my opinion. Some of you may not agree with that opinion, but that is how I feel.

soapy_725
44121
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soapy_725 08/16/14 - 08:26 am
0
0
You take Caesar's money, you take Caesar's rules.
Unpublished

You take Caesar's money, you take Caesar's rules.

ymnbde
10675
Points
ymnbde 08/16/14 - 09:37 am
2
1
curly, the nazi regime started out small

doing things just like our irs is doing
i know i'm worried about getting audited because of my political contributions... and that means the liberal democrat nazis are winning

OJP
7739
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OJP 08/16/14 - 11:05 am
3
1
@myfather15

Incorrect. There are two religious clauses in the First Amendment: the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause (the former is the FROM; the latter is the OF).

As for your specific questions, it would be done the same way it is now for 501(1)(3)s. You can advocate issues but not candidates. "Vote pro-life" or "Vote traditional marriage" are fine. "Vote Romney because he is pro-life and traditional marriage" is not.

The rules on this are already in existence and being applied.

myfather15
56916
Points
myfather15 08/16/14 - 11:12 am
1
2
Liberals believe in "Seperation of Church and State"

That is, unless the Church is saying something they find offensive, then they believe the State should come down hard on them!!

Is that their definition of seperation? There is absolutely no limits to the lies and hypocrisy of the left!!

myfather15
56916
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myfather15 08/16/14 - 11:22 am
2
1
OJP

"Incorrect."

Why? Because YOU say it's incorrect? Oooh, ok!! Then I and millions of others MUST be wrong; because you said we are!!

""Vote Romney because he is pro-life and traditional marriage" is not."

You must not have seen where I said "One could easily say he is, even if the Pastor never mentions a single name during his sermon!!"

Because what they're talking about is interpretation!! This is an election year; what if in late October a Pastor decides to start hammering his congregation with anti-abortion and gay marriage sermons? If it's left up to someone like Lois Lerner to interpret whether he is advocating a specific candidate; that individual could make that accusation.

myfather15
56916
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myfather15 08/16/14 - 11:26 am
3
1
deestafford

"The thing is the white preachers can preach against many issues facing our country without mentioning and candidate or party...just the issues if they had the guts to speak out and "not want to offend anyone". "

Two points to make; black preachers aren't as afraid of political correctness and the name branding game!! Claims of racism and bigotry, actually DO roll off them, as water on a ducks back!! A white person gets branded a racist or bigot and they are completely finished in society!!

Second point; many pastors/preachers are more concern with keeping the congregation in the doors and the tithes coming in mass; so they are very careful not to offend!! They only person they don't mind offending, is God!!

harley_52
25920
Points
harley_52 08/16/14 - 02:03 pm
2
0
"A white person gets branded a racist or bigot....

....and they are completely finished in society!!"

Well, the first half of that statement is definitely true, but the second may not be.

It's true that the person being accused of racism or bigotry may be "finished" in the eyes of followers and supporters of liberalism and political correctness, but I don't agree those two groups actually speak for "society" in its totality. They would love us to believe they are, but I don't think most NORMAL people think so.

In fact, it's my opinion that this is the ONLY way we'll ever stop the madness we've come to by fearing those charges. We've got to get back to the days when we can speak clearly in terms that are commonly understood, direct, and meaningful. Say what we mean and mean what we say (to use an old saw) without fear of "offending" somebody, or anybody.

I am neither a "racist," nor a "bigot," though I have been called both numerous times. It used to bother me, a little. It even caused me to step back and reassess my views. I am now convinced that it's all simply a tactic of liberalism, part of Alinsky's "Rules For Radicals" and a way to both shut up the competition and strengthen their side.

We should all ignore the PC police. Speak freely and honestly. Laugh at those who call us names for speaking our minds about issues that are important to us. Trust me, they don't worry about what "offends" us and we need to adopt the same mindset.

myfather15
56916
Points
myfather15 08/16/14 - 03:36 pm
1
1
Harley

I know exactly what you're saying; as it doesn't bother me either when they call the names. I know who I am and that I hate no one because of their skin or sexual orientation.

But, just using me and my profession as an example; if I'm ever branded a racist or bigot and it STICKS, my career is over!! I could never work in LE again!! To a lesser degree, Pastor's are the same way. If they're ever branded a racist or bigot and people actually believe it, they are probably not going to have much of a congregation. Contrary to the left's opinion, Christians are not racists and don't like those who are!

I agree with you that most common sense people out here realize this and don't believe the wolf is actually in the crowed theatre when someone screams it, but the threat is still there and real; which I believe causes people to be silent!!

I've said it numerous times; the left used political correctness as a WMD to silence their opposition; and they use it well!!

But this too, we've been forewarned about!

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