Right-wing Group Trying to Drag Churches into Partisan Politics

The Alliance Defense Fund is rallying far-right pastors around an effort to overturn a more than 60-year-old federal law that limits houses of worship and other tax-exempt nonprofits from participating in partisan election campaigns.

ADF and pastors like Steve Riggle of Houston and Jim Garlow of San Diego are calling on clergy to protest the law by participating in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” on October 7. From an ADF email to supporters on Tuesday:

Pastors should have the freedom to speak freely from their pulpits – even about issues related to candidates and elections without fearing government censorship or losing their tax exempt status.

Across the nation hundreds of pastors have participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday. Join the growing movement of spiritual leaders standing for their God-given and constitutionally protected rights.

Since 1954, federal law has barred nonprofit organizations under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service code from keeping their tax-exempt status if they support or oppose candidates for elective office. So-called 501(c)(3) nonprofits, which include religious and nonreligious organizations, do not pay federal income taxes. In addition, donors to those organizations may deduct their contributions from their own income taxes. Houses of worship and other 501(c)(3) nonprofits may choose to engage in partisan election campaigns, but they would lose their tax exemptions.

ADF’s current efforts to change or overturn that law are part of a broader campaign by the religious right to drag churches into partisan politics. In Texas, for example, the Texas Restoration Project in 2005 and 2006 tried to mobilize thousands of conservative pastors in a poorly concealed effort to politicize congregations in support of Gov. Rick Perry’s re-election campaign.

3 thoughts on “Right-wing Group Trying to Drag Churches into Partisan Politics

  1. Give ’em all the pulpit freedom they want! And then tax ’em like the law says! “Render unto Caeser” is in their book, right?

  2. It seems to me that there ought to be some sort of conspiracy law that covers something like this. Several people planning a murder, a robbery, or hoe to defraud an old lady is illegal, if I understand the law correctly, which I probably do not. It seems to me that there should also be some conspiracy law to unite churches in violation of the tax laws and IRS regulations.

    The sad thing here is that they operate on the mass civil disobedience assumption. They encourage 100,000 church pastors to preach in favor of a particular RWNJ candidate at their church, full well knowing that it violates the law. Then they say, “There’s too many of you for the IRS to investigate.” However, they fail to tell them that the IRS will select some few churches out from the crowd, like a lion pride on the African plains, and eat them alive in court.

    I guess the churches can play this dice game if they like, but the fewer the churches are that participate, the more likely that yours will be tagged and devoured. Just sayin’.

  3. It isn’t just Christian preachers who seem desperate to challenge this law. Here in Brooklyn, in a special election to replace my ex-State Senator, the incredibly corrupt closet queen and SSM opponent Carl Krueger (who is known for using his lover’s mother as a ‘beard’) who was finally ‘redirected’ from Albany to Attica, there was a ‘war of the rabbis.’

    Now it doesn’t bother me if a preacher, priest, or rabbi expresses a preference for a candidate, even in front of his congregation, even if he uses religious arguments. But this went a little far. First the Democrat correctly pointed to some of the Republican’s articles that were reprinted on an anti-Semitic site (but without, afaik, the Republican seeking such reprinting or being aware of it). The Republican’s answer was to get a group of eventually over 70 Orthodox rabbis to declare, in print, that, because of huis position on SSM, abortion, and school vouchers (in my district they’d go to Yeshivas) it was an ‘insult to God’ for any Jew to vote for, support, contribute to, or even give recognition to the Democrat.

    That, i believe, crossed the line — and I have shopped in local stores and seen rabbis pass through without paying even sales tax — and I wish someone would act against them as well.

    (I should end this with the result of the election, but it was a month ago — the district is going to be redistricted anyway — and the last news I’ve found is that the margin between the two candidates is three votes and a lot of lawyers. In fact, this may be one time when cries of ‘voter fraud’ may be true — there were some questionable manipulations of absentee ballots by the Republican, claims that the Democrat was targeting Russian voters to protest against (the Republican comes from the Russian community of Brighton Beach, the Democrat does not) — and the election may not be settled before the district disappears.)

    Anyway, I think there’s room for some expression of political opinion, even religious-based, even if it goes against my own position, from the pulpit. Certainly it is acceptable if expressed in general terms — even if it is obviously but not specifically aimed at a particular candidate. (If you worry about the Catholic Bishops condemning any Democrat who supports women, remember they have also condemned Republicans for supporting cutting services for the poor.)

    But there has to be a line. To me, these rabbis crossed it, but where would you draw it?