Today is Pulpit Freedom Sunday, When Christian Pastors Dare the IRS to Revoke Their Tax-Exemption
June 9, 2013 By Hemant Mehta
The biggest IRS scandal is the one virtually no one is talking about: How churches that pay no taxes in return for not endorsing political candidates are breaking those rules openly and receiving no punishment at all. (Some pastors even sent the IRS videos of their sermons.)
It happens on “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” — and today, more than 1,000 pastors are expected to participate. Since there’s no presidential candidate to endorse, they’re speaking about why the congregation should oppose marriage equality:
The Bible has not changed. God’s Word remains true that homosexual behavior is wrong and that marriage is as God Himself defined it in the beginning pages of Scripture — between one man and one woman only. Public opinion cannot change Truth. But Truth must be proclaimed to be believed and adopted. And that is where your role as a pastor comes in.
Obviously, many churches already do this all the time so it’s not quite at the level of endorsing candidates, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for the IRS. They have plenty of reason to go after these churches already.
Last October, more than 1,500 pastors told their congregations to vote for someone (presumably Mitt Romney). As I said before, the main reason the IRS won’t take action is due to bureaucracy. A “high-level” employee has to authorize the audits and no one is currently in position to do that. The IRS isn’t rushing to fill the spot, either.
As Rev. Barry Lynn wrote for the Huffington Post, this is a problem for ethical as well as economical reasons:
If the IRS wants to be more aggressive and crack down on law-breakers, it need not spend time subjecting Tea Party groups to extra scrutiny because someone decides their names raise red flags or an official frets that they might possibly step over some political lines.
That’s all theoretical. Meanwhile, there are houses of worship breaking the law right now by endorsing or opposing candidates. That’s not theoretical. They are doing it. And they’re doing it openly.
It appears that officials at the IRS can’t get motivated to work resolving an actual problem and are instead spending time embroiling themselves in embarrassing scandals. Perhaps it’s time to bring in some people who not only understand the law but are willing to enforce it.
By not taking action, the government is missing out on upwards of hundreds of millions of dollars that these churches are throwing away by participating in this event. The IRS can’t be afraid to go after groups that break the law, even if they are churches.