Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Churches and Political Speech

In all the years I went to Presbyterian Church every Sunday (approximately 20), I never heard a political message from the pulpit.

The ACLU has set the example that you can engage freely in political speech and keep your tax-exempt status...so churches seem to be following suit. There are now 47 churches under investigation for political "sermons" bestowed upon their congregations during the 2004 election.

The one procuring the most attention is SoCal's All Saints Church (a liberal Episcopalian church).

"Freedom of speech and freedom of religion have been assaulted by this act of the IRS, and I think my people want to be heard in court," said Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints, to a packed church on September 17." (source)

Here's where I'm a little lost...maybe someone can help me out here... There is no freedom of speech issue --there is only a money issue, right? Any pastor, priest or "minister" that received his credentials from an ad in the back of Rolling Stone magazine is free to say whatever they wish, but if they choose to do that they have to pay taxes.

"Legally, pastors can push for amendments, encourage people to vote and shape political dialogue in myriad ways. They can’t campaign for or against a particular candidate, nor can they endorse a political party. In exchange for following these rules, churches don’t pay taxes, and donations to them are tax-free. The agreement has been part of the tax code since 1954..." (source)

Is this all that complicated? All Saint’s minister can say whatever he likes from his bully-pulpit, but he also has to pay the price when his parishners can no longer deduct their tithing to his establishment. This really is about putting your money where your mouth is.

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