Friday, September 26, 2008

Pulpit Initiative to Tease the IRS

iMinister was going to run for president this week, announcing her candidacy in a sermon, but this brilliant sermonic ploy was spoiled by a real life civil disobedience campaign. iMinister is annoyed.

This campaign of about 30, mostly Evangelical pastors (they tried to get others involved) will challenge the IRS's rules that tax exempt organizations such as churches can't engage in candidate politics, only in issue politics. They are going to go ahead an endorse their chosen candidate from their pulpits this Sunday and take the consequences. They say they'll sue the government if they do loose their tax exempt status. Read more here.

iMinister thinks this is a bit foolish, but she's aware that the IRS has been both negligent (especially to conservative churches) in enforcing its rules and out of bounds (especially to liberal churches) in harassing ministers who are staying on their proper side of the endorsement line, and she'd appreciate a clarification of the situation which is, after all, what often comes out of court cases and high drama publicity.

She also thinks that any preacher who can't figure out a way to preach "on the issues" such that the congregation can't figure out who the preacher wishes his or her people would vote for is not a very skilled preacher, so she doesn't put much stock in complaints about this particular rule being any real infringement on religious needs. She suspects that this the real inhibition these preachers feel is to their own egos, which are pinched when they can't tell their flocks how to vote.

IRS specializes in slow response, so I doubt if we'll know by Monday.

And if you want to know about iMinister's platform, check here on Tuesday.


Chalicechick said...

The Chalicechick agrees with most of this.

Except with the part about the IRS overreaching as far as liberals are concerned. IMHO, the IRS is too lax on both sides.


ogre said...

Not that I disagree... but the rules, CC, aren't that politics are off limits. It's that supporting candidates and parties are off limits.

Preaching about abortion or equal marriage rights -- legal. Preaching about voting for candidates who will do the right thing? That's stepping over the line, I think--and I'd like to see the IRS make that point.

Chalicechick said...

While my preference is that we preach about the principles behind specific issues rather than the issues themselves, I can live with the occasional sermon on abortion as long as it is a sermon and not a speech.

That said, I think most of us have lots of places where we can talk politics and very few places where we can talk about religious issues, so I'm always disappointed to come to church and find that's what the sermon is about.


KJR said...

I think it is a categorical error to lump churches in with non-profits, since churches and religion have a different consititutional and legal status.(The power to tax is the power to control and our constitution and legal precendents suggest a "hands off" approach to the church. This prohibition against candidate endorsement has given the government an excuse to monitor sermons for "inappropriate content" --- a decision I don't want made by a government official.)

As a preacher, I think I should have the right to free speech in the pulpit, even though I think there are only a few, extreme, times when preachers ought to endorse candidates (Hitler ran for office). I do want to hear churches speaking out on the big moral and ethical issues of the day like civil rights, torture, war, etc. and the religious people we admire in history were often those like MLK or Dietrich Bonhoffer who did so. A good preacher can make the connection between our faith and values and the issues we face. There is nothing irreligious about that.