Pastors pledge to defy IRS, preach politics from pulpit ahead of election
More than 1,000 pastors are planning to challenge the IRS next month by deliberately preaching politics ahead of the presidential election despite a federal ban on endorsements from the pulpit.
The defiant move, they hope, will prompt the IRS to enforce a 1954 tax code amendment that prohibits tax-exempt organizations, such as churches, from making political endorsements. Alliance Defending Freedom, which is holding the October summit, said it wants the IRS to press the matter so it can be decided in court. The group believes the law violates the First Amendment by “muzzling” preachers.
“The purpose is to make sure that the pastor -- and not the IRS -- decides what is said from the pulpit,” Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the group, told FoxNews.com. “It is a head-on constitutional challenge.”
Stanley said pastors attending the Oct. 7 “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” will “preach sermons that will talk about the candidates running for office” and then “make a specific recommendation.”
“We’re hoping the IRS will respond by doing what they have threatened,” he said. “We have to wait for it to be applied to a particular church or pastor so that we can challenge it in court. We don’t think it’s going to take long for a judge to strike this down as unconstitutional.”
An amendment was made to the IRS tax code in 1954, stating that tax-exempt organizations are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
“Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise tax,” the IRS says in its online guide for churches and religious organizations seeking tax exemption.
Stanley and others, like San Diego pastor Jim Garlow, say the IRS regularly threatens churches that they will lose their tax-exempt status if they preach politics. But Stanley and Garlow claim the government never acts on the threat because it wants to avoid a court battle.