1,600 pastors broke law by backing political candidates in sermons

Personally, I would love to see the law changed to force the freeloading churches to pay taxes. Let them promote politicians and then tax them into extinction. Works for me.

And wow, I’m really surprised that the number is so high.  But will they ever be prosecuted?

Stained glass church religion

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About 1,600 pastors across the country violated a 58-year-old ban on political endorsements by churches in October by explicitly backing political candidates in their Sunday sermons, according to the Alliance Defending Freedom of Scottsdale, Ariz., a conservative Christian legal organization behind a campaign called Pulpit Freedom Sunday.

The 1954 law they are challenging prohibits charitable groups, including most churches, from making candidate endorsements, but doesn’t bar ministers, priests, rabbis and imams from speaking out on other ballot issues, like voter initiatives, or organizing get-out-the-vote drives and education efforts around elections themselves.

The alliance is seeking to force a court showdown over the constitutionality of the law, violation of which can cost churches their tax-exempt status. Since Oct. 7, the original Pulpit Freedom Day, many pastors who participated in the protest have posted their remarks online or sent them to the Internal Revenue Service, essentially daring the agency charged with enforcing the prohibition to put up or shut up.


An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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  • sane37

    not his job.
    Its the IRS’ job to do this without prompting. i.e. Just following the law.

  • sane37

    Remove tax exempt status for religion. Keep it for non profit entities.

  • Here in The Trenches

    Just found this petition at white house petitions page, it is to stop this idea of endorsing candidates from the pulpit. Easy to sign up and sign it. They only have until December 7th to get 16,000 more signatures to be seen by a committee! https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/enforce-tax-code-and-strip-violating-religious-institutions-their-tax-exempt-501c-status/mCsW32Ng

    I read a very insightful article on just how out of hand this whole “exempt” thing can get with a greedy, power hungry church by laws already in place. It’s worth the read, I was shocked:
    http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=fi&page=cragun_32_4

  • Bertswan

     if the government don,t get back to god and what this country was founded on no matter what party you belong to you will be in trouble remember what our forefathers fought and died for the people will be pushed only so far and they will say enough remember the boston tea party it can happen again when the people start you want stop them

  • Fedupwithgreedyliars

    Another topic I’d like to mention is about the donors to churches. Up to 50% of a person’s income can be deducted as tax free if given to a religeous organization. If you wanted to donate to a candidate, wouldn’t it be better to do it through a church?

  • Fedupwithgreedyliars

    My biggest concern is that up until Romney was chosen as the republican candidate, all these other churches were calling mormonism a cult. Billy Graham got caught scrubbing his website of all cult references after he endorsed Romney. They sold their souls and beliefs for what? Is endorsing a cult leader better than letting women have a choice about thier own bodies and letting God do the judging later?

  • Fedupwithgreedyliars

    I’m a christian, and as such I know that there are churches that follow the teachings of Christ and the other kind that see it as a glory hole of free money and power. Our taxes help subsidize churches to the tune of $71 billion dollars a year, not counting many other freebies and exemptions dealing with property and donations ect. When a pastor starts to promote politics from the pulpit, that is a sure sign they are not looking to the bible for guidance, but to their donors. Not to mention they are activley breaking the law that already generously favors them. I read a very insightful article on just how out of hand  this whole “exempt” thing can get with a greedy, power hungry church by laws already in place. It’s worth the read, I was shocked:  http://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php?section=fi&page=cragun_32_4

  • http://fighttherightwingnuts.blogspot.com/ mike31c

    When is the IRS going to do their job and start collecting taxes on these corporations?  And yes, they are corporations and do not deserve tax-exempt status. 

  • http://fighttherightwingnuts.blogspot.com/ mike31c

    When is the IRS going to do their job and start collecting taxes on these corporations?  And yes, they are corporations and do not deserve tax-exempt status. 

  • CommonSense

    The IRS won’t do anything because more than 1,500 attorneys stand ready to defend the right of free speech and the IRS knows it can’t win against those odds. However, since BHO’s win, the new appointments to the ‘Court’ will change all of that. The new injustice of the ‘Court’ will be wield against the Constitution so aggressively that it will be done away with in less than 4 yrs. Remember this, the ObamaCare mandate now allows for the gov’t to require citizens to pay, forcibly, ANY thing the gov’t find necessary. It also allows the gov’t to take payment from your bank account and if on Social Security, from your check, up to the entire amount FIRST. You will have no say!

  • CommonSense

    Just like the lies the Obama Admin told over and over and over about Libya, but in that case 4 American’s died, needlessly. Liberal ‘Christian & Jew’ hating people have nothing to worry about. Obama will appoint 2-4 new socialist Supreme Ct Judges and Christians will not be able to preach at all, Just like Germany in the 40′s, and new anti-gun legislation has already been written and will be implemented either by Congress or most likely by Obama’s Executive Order, by-passing Congress completely, as he has done repeatedly and as is expected of a dictator-in-chief. Christians know what’s coming next, fools don’t have a clue. 

  • Sweetie

    There is a lot of competition for members, so building big is seen as necessary. For a lot of people, the bigger it is, the better.

  • Sweetie

    Never gonna happen.

  • condew

     Churches should be required to re-apply for their tax-exempt status every year, just like broadcasters.  They should be required to invite public comment and to prove that they provide a social benefit; they feed the poor, encourage moral behavior among their members, that they are watchdogs against unethical behavior by public officials, something that benefits the country and the world.  A real church should have no trouble defending their tax exempt status, but political organizations pretending to be churches might only be able to convince members of their own “church” of their virtue.

    Case in point. As Mitt Romney and the Republican party lied, were corrected by the press, and repeated the lies again with no remorse, where was the Mormon church?  Wasn’t a commandment broken?  Or when Ryan proposed a budget balenced on the backs of the poor, where was the Catholic church?  Doesn’t the Bible repeat over and over that we should look after the least among us?  Doesn’t the Bible say that it is easier for a camel to go thru the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven?  Doesn’t the Bible say that if a rich man wants salvation, he should sell all that he has and give it to the poor?

    Like the press, and like broadcasters, churches were given special privileges because of the benefits they can bestow, and like the press and like the broadcasters, the churches have become useless; they don’t want to be the guardians of virtue, they want to gather money tax-free, rabble rouse about gay marriage and abortion, and screw little boys with impunity.

  • condew

     I wonder, did Obama not bother to nominate anyone, or did the Senate filibuster the appointment?

  • condew

    This sounds like a tremendous opportunity for Obama’s second term.  He’ll never run for re-election, so now is the time to instruct the IRS to crack down on political organizations that pretend to be churches for tax purposes.

  • A reader in Colorado

    Well then, obviously, nothing to see here, and we just just move along.

    Of course no one is at fault for the machine not working – the circuit that powers it is just neatly cut, mysteriously without the edges being frayed.  By the air.  And, well, never spliced together, but the law just can’t be enforced because there is no circuit to do it.
     
    So sad.  The machine is just broken, and is somehow never ever fixed.  

    The political cowardice I’m talking about originates far, far above the IRS.  And conveniently not filling a position to do a job is a neat Washington way of choosing not have a job done at all, and changes nothing about the original observation.

  • perljammer

    So, you apparently aren’t aware of the reason the IRS cannot perform this enforcement.  It isn’t “politically motivated cowardice”.  The 1954 law prohibiting leaders of non-profit organizations from endorsing political candidates, also requires that IRS enforcement be authorized by someone in a position that no longer exists at the IRS.  So, until the IRS fixes that problem, they can’t legally enforce this rule.

  • DocBalance

    So what you’re saying is that your church has spent so much money on physical possessions that to pay a mere portion of the value of said possessions would completely destroy your ability to minister to those in need?

    Whoever is in charge of budget allocation in your congregation needs to re-evaluate their religious tenets. 

  • tsuki

    Time to follow that Biblical commandment-Render unto Caesar…

  • A reader in Colorado

    Laws that governments are afraid to enforce, and never enforce because they’d piss the wrong people off, are totally meaningless.

    The pastors violate this law because they can.  They can because of politically motivated cowardice, restraining the correct application of the law.

    Until that changes, nothing will change about this.

  • CommonSense

    This is why ignorance rules in America. Beginning in 1633, Americans got their political information from the pulpit. They used to teach in school that the folks that came to America did so to escape religious persecution, just like today. There were up to 3 church services held in the US Capitol on Sundays and one of them was for Black Christians. Look up Fredrick Douglass. “But in 1954, Congress passed the “Johnson Amendment,” which has since been interpreted as silencing pastors on issues or topics of civil interest. Yet Christians of previous generations would never have submitted to a policy that so egregiously violated not only constitutional provisions but also Biblical precedent.” http://www.wallbuilders.com/LIBissuesArticles.asp?id=105388 The American Revolution was started by preachers telling the people they had the “God given right to be free!” Today, it seems that only the Muslims have that freedom. World birth trends show that Muslims will rule America and the world, within 40 years. And then all the women will be wearing burkas, and any non-believing or anti-Muslim folks will be put to death, unlike Christianity. Churches have donated more time and money to the poor of the world than any government, ever. Tax the churches and that is the proof that the country has gone completely Socialist. Then the government consumes most of the money internally, instead of helping the poor. The Stimulus money could have given each poor family in the USA, $60,000, as a lump sum. Instead, they got food stamps and poverty!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/K-De-Backer/515039606 K De Backer

    LOL- Tax them to extinction…straight from the mouth of William S. Burroughs- the father of the Beats and Grandfather of the Punks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.dragger Steve Dragger

    Yeah where have you been for the past 10 years… Religious leaders have been active and sermons have backed parties and candidates for years now. This is absolutley nothing new. Taxing the church on it’s holdings and income would do more good if funneled into targeted “programs for the people” than their “hands on” actions ever would. Feeding people and educating them (w/out forcing them to listen to your sales pitch first).TAX THE CHURCH, they’re moochers getting something for nothing.I’ve been wearing one of these since 2007 and people ALWAYS stop me and say “Yeah!”
    http://www.cafepress.com/mf/1021024/the-original-quottax-the-churchquot-tshirt_tshirt

  • Snarki, child of Loki

    Doesn’t the IRS have a hotline, so that you can rat out tax cheats, and get a percentage of the take?

    Better hurry up, before the greedy GOP types decide to cash in.  Religion be damned, there’s MONEY on the table!

  • Naja pallida

    This has happened for years… before the rules governing tax-exempt status, and ever since. Nothing is every done about it. When was the last time you heard about an organization’s tax-exempt status being revoked? They’re given a ridiculously broad leeway. Even when it comes to financial matters.

  • Naja pallida

    I swear, it’s like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall. Debating theology with someone who changes their beliefs and opinions on a whim is like trying to teach calculus to my beagle. Fun, but ultimately futile.

  • http://www.awaypoint.wordpress.com Valerie Tarico

    The freeloading Church in Italy will have to pay their fair share on infrastructure henceforward.  They no longer are exempt from property tax laws on most church-owned real estate.  We can do the same here need to decide when the time is right and first build popular awareness of the way that everybody subsidizes churches they don’t believe in, not let the Religious Right force the timing. The Romney tax shirking is a great one to publicize because it means that all Americans are subsitizing the Mormon church, which even most Christians recognize as having been founded on a hoax.   

  • Engnr1945

    Well, I composed this long rant about how our small (<100) church could get by without our tax exemption but just as I was going to hit the "Post" button I remembered one thing.  PROPERTY TAX!!!!!!  That is the only tax that could hurt us.  The taxes on our church (from the 50's and getting kinda ratty since we don't have the cash to maintain it like we should) and property (The one part that is really really nice) would be extreme.  As a guess they'd probably exceed our current TOTAL budget.  Yup, without our tax exempt status the real estate developers'd be swarming all over us.  Then they would take away most of the sale price for back taxes, and income taxes and whatever.  As a church we'd figure something out and survive.  I'm truly surprised that the Republicans haven't thought of this.  What a great way to get a LOT of prime real estate on the market.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/A64O6YVJSG2FXCADGOYPSV7L34 Maryann

    Here is the HIDDEN video that cost Romney the election. He goes crazy( This was watched 1 million times yesterday)

     http://youtu.be/TxMD02zU9SE

  • Butch1

    Will the DOJ or Congress do anything about it? Absolutely nothing.

  • Inames

     That’s why he’s smarter than you. The Church dumbs you down and has you build your entire life around a fairytale. How dumb is that? All Churches should be stripped of their tax exemption.

  • jomicur

    Conservatives, including conservative Christians, are constantly touting the free market and competition.  Fine, so let them compete with other businesses on a level field by paying taxes.  Wel’ll see how many of them survive the free market competition. Personally, I’d guess that if we were to start taxing churches today, most “men of God” would be in a different racket by this time next week.

  • Martinmar68

    Call your congressional representative and complain, if enough of us do they will listen

  • FLL

    Pastors can back ballot initiatives or tell parishioners to consider biblical values when choosing candidates. However, specifically backing a candidate or political party opens them up to losing their tax-exempt status. Now is the time to make this an issue. When the economy is struggling, Americans are less willing to let churches get a tax-break at the expense of the rest of society.

  • UncleBucky

    They are skofflaws who break the law, thinking (and perhaps even saying) “go ahead, drag me to court, I’ll cry ‘victim’ and you will lose”. That’s what they are tempting.

    They, all 1,600 of them as well as any others who used “other means” to do the same thing, are VILE. If they call themselves Christian, I should like to haul them to a trial much like one of those scenes from the Wild Wild West, Star Trek or Twilight Zone where they stand accused of their crime with plain evidence.

    Just dreaming… these guys will get away with it again. And again.

  • HelenRainier

    If they make endorsements from the pulpit in their official capacity, they should have their tax-exempt status jerked immediately. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

  • http://blogvader.tumblr.com/ Blogvader

    Funny how much Republicans love the law, and enforcing it, that is until Christians are doing the lawbreaking.

  • olandp

     They have free speech, they want political speech.

  • kingstonbears

    Religion is big business and, as such, should be taxed.  Secretaries, groundskeepers, maintenance crews, payroll administrators — sure sounds like a business to me.

  • Indigo

    I’m surprised you’re surprised the number is “so high.” I’m surprised the reported number is so low. The Orlando Sentinel reports so many endorsements from the pulpit that the impression here in central Florida is that it’s unusual for a clergyperson not to use the pulpit for a political forum. I can only conclude, dear Chris, that you haven’t been to church in the States in a mighty long time.

  • samiinh

     The problem is they want it both ways…tax exempt and free speech.  Imagine, if they had to pay taxes, the Romneys of this world wouldn’t be able to get huge tax breaks from remainder trusts for example, and not pay any taxes.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Honestly? I don’t think religion should be tax-exempt simply for the fact of being a religious organization. Let them have their free speech, as is Constitutional, and endorse whomever they like, but they should not be exempt from taxes because that’s essentially an ‘establishment of religion” issue in terms of our government deciding what is and isn’t a legitimate religious organization under the law.

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