Pastor Jim Garlow will stand before congregants at his 2,000-seat Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, California, on Sunday, October 7, just weeks before the U.S. presidential and congressional elections, and urge his flock to vote for or against particular candidates.
He knows such pulpit pleading could endanger his church’s tax-exempt status by violating IRS rules for a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. A charity can take a position on policy issues but cannot act “on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” To cross that line puts the $7 million mega-church’s tax break at risk.
Even so, Garlow not only intends to break the rules, he also plans to spend the next four months recruiting other pastors to do the same as part of Pulpit Freedom Sunday. On that day each year since 2008, ministers intentionally try to provoke the IRS. Some even send DVD recordings of their sermons to the agency.
Last year, 539 pastors participated. This year organizers expect far more. Participants want to force the matter to court as a freedom of speech and religion issue.
"I believe we’re on the early stages of the next great awakening," Garlow told his congregation last year. "We’re going to see it just sweep across this nation."
The situation is fraught with peril for the IRS, which needs to be seen as apolitical. When it cracks down on political activities proscribed by the 501(c)(3) regulations, it is inevitably branded as partisan.
When the target is a church, mosque or synagogue, enforcement puts two fundamental American values at odds: freedom of speech and the separation of church and state. Although the agency has enforced the tax-exemption rules against churches in the past, it has so far ignored the provocations of Freedom Sunday.
The IRS has also been silent about the increasingly aggressive political activity of the U.S. Catholic bishops, who have called for their own Fortnight for Freedom this week. Masses, rallies, and parish bulletins are being mobilized against the Obama administration’s healthcare regulations on contraceptives.
The result of agency inaction, according to tax experts and former IRS staffers, will be a lot more electioneering by leaders of the faithful, in local races as well as national, and to the benefit of Democrats as well as Republicans.
"It will get worse unless the IRS takes action, and they seem reluctant," said Nicholas Cafardi, dean emeritus and professor of law at Duquesne University and the longtime lawyer for the Catholic diocese of Pittsburgh.
Using tax data from the U.S. Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation and data on giving to churches from the Indiana Center, a Reuters analysis found that tax breaks on church giving shaved $12 billion or so from total U.S. tax collections in 2011 and approximately $145 billion over the last decade.
The property tax break is probably even bigger. In their 2011 book “Politics, Taxes, and the Pulpit,” law professors Nina Crimm and Laurence Winer calculated that houses of worship received $12.7 billion in property tax exemptions on $685 billion of property in 2006, a figure large enough to have played a role in city and state budget deficits of recent years.
In big cities the numbers can be dramatic. New York City’s 9,500 churches, synagogues, and mosques, for example, will avoid $626.9 million in property taxes this year thanks to their tax-free status, according to the city’s Independent Budget Office.
Read the rest and weep. Or make your opinions known:
Phone: (202) 622-2000
Fax: (202) 622-6415
I was unable to find an email address for the IRS commissioner, Douglas Shulman.
Here is their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/IRS
Sorry but I’m not sorry.
Brittany captures a very important psychological phenomenom called coginitive dissonance, and mostly I think all of us can learn a thing or two from this discourse.
If I hear one more Christian say “but not all Christians are like that” I’m going to explode.
Stop taking my oppression and making it about you. Christians oppress the hell out of the LGBT community and since Christians make up the majority of the US, they hold a lot of power.
Seriously, here are just a few anti-LGBT things that have been said recently by Christians — that gay folks should be put in an electrified pen and killed off, that parents should punch their feminine sons and force their “butch daughters” to “act like a girl” by “being attractive”, that gay marriage is the equivalent of “man and beast”, that we should be ”persecuted like we were historically” (I’m guessing he meant death), that gays are responsible for the Nazi Party, that gay doctors shouldn’t be allowed to treat children, that Gay Pride Month is similar to pride for adultery or drunkenness, and I could go on and on but I’m going to stop there.
And YOU are seriously going to get offended when I rant about Christians after they say these things about me and my community? YOU are seriously going to get upset when I flinch when I hear you call yourself a Christian?
Why don’t you show us how “not all Christians are like that” instead? Fight for LGBT rights. Show us that you care.
I don’t know how many times I’ve hear WHITE people say, ‘But not all whites are like that’ when a PoC expresses or shares a story of racism & bigotry.
Or the number of times I’ve heard men say, ‘but not all men are like that,’ when hearing about obvious examples of misogyny or sexism.
So here’s the thing, people, we’re talking about PRIVILEGE. There is straight privilege, and male privilege, and Christian privilege, and white privilege, and abled privilege, and when you are part of the majority, or part of the PRIVILEGED group, by choice or otherwise, it’s very difficult to understand the anger, frustration, and daily reality of NOT living with that privilege.
So the next time someone starts talking about YOUR PRIVILEGED group, and something shitty someone did/said/or general oppression, don’t say, ‘But, not all [insert privileged group here] are like that.
Instead, sit down, shut up, and learn something about the system that grants this sort of privilege.