Christian radicals call for holy war against IRS
Extremist Christian radicals, backed and encouraged by an Arizona right-wing legal group, have declared a jihad against the Internal Revenue Service.
Some 35 fundamental Christian clerics will openly endorse a presidential candidate (guess who?) from the pulpit, based on their interpretation of holy scriptures.
Their endorsements represent a direct challenge to federal tax law, which prohibits tax-exempt organizations from engaging in partisan political activity.
The point of the holy war is to tick off the IRS, as though it takes all that much.
The clergy have embraced that risk, hoping their actions will trigger an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, which would then enable a Christian legal advocacy group to take the IRS to court and challenge the constitutionality of the ban.
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a conservative legal group based in Arizona, recruited the pastors for "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" to press their claim that the IRS tax code violates the free speech of religious leaders.
Of course, the radical clerics are trying to hide behind he First Amendment.
"I have a First Amendment right to say whatever I want to say, and I've never thought it was appropriate that as a pastor I could not share my political concerns with the congregation," says the Rev. Gus Booth, pastor at Warroad Community Church in Warroad, Minn.
However, that is a bald-faced lie.
Nothing in the law has ever stopped any radical fundamentalist from endorsing a political candidate from the pulpit. The prohibition only comes when you want tax free status for all the money your church, temple or congregation brings into the coffers.
These Christian extremists just want to have their communion wafer and eat it too.
I am not alone in these views; they are shared by actual non-militant clergy.
For other clergy – and legal experts – this is not a question of free speech, but an act contrary to the law that could also be dangerous for religion, potentially dividing and politicizing congregations.
"This is not a free speech issue," says the Rev. Eric Williams, pastor of North Congregational United Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio. "Any person, including a pastor, can endorse a candidate as a private individual. And if a church wants to do it, it can give up its tax-exempt status."
The prohibition against partisan activity by charitable groups was enacted by Congress in 1954, and the statute has been upheld in the courts. In three cases, courts have concluded it does not violate the Constitution's free speech clause, according to Robert Tuttle, professor of law and religion at George Washington University in Washington.
In a national poll released in August, two-thirds of American adults say that churches should not come out in favor of one political candidate over another. The Pew poll shows widespread agreement, including among Republicans and white Evangelicals (both at 64 percent).
Also, under the IRS rules, clergy are free to discuss any issues of public concern in their sermons, and houses of worship can engage in nonpartisan voter-registration and civic education.
Let them have their holy war. Let these radical fundamentalists preach their hate and extremist politics.
Just make them render unto Caeser.
5And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
7But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
Matthew 6:5-8 (King James Version)