IOKIYAR for Churches

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Bush Administration, liberalism and progressivism, Religion, Republican Party

Remember last year, when the Republican Party used conservative churches to campaign for Bush?

The Bush-Cheney reelection campaign has sent a detailed plan of action to religious volunteers across the country asking them to turn over church directories to the campaign, distribute issue guides in their churches and persuade their pastors to hold voter registration drives. …

… The instruction sheet circulated by the Bush-Cheney campaign to religious volunteers lists 22 “duties” to be performed by specific dates. By July 31, for example, volunteers are to “send your Church Directory to your State Bush-Cheney ’04 Headquarters or give [it] to a BC04 Field Rep” and “Talk to your Pastor about holding a Citizenship Sunday and Voter Registration Drive.”

By Aug. 15, they are to “talk to your Church’s seniors or 20-30 something group about Bush/Cheney ’04″ and “recruit 5 more people in your church to volunteer for the Bush Cheney campaign.”

By Sept. 17, they are to host at least two campaign-related potluck dinners with church members, and in October they are to “finish calling all Pro-Bush members of your church,” “finish distributing Voter Guides in your church” and place notices on church bulletin boards or in Sunday programs “about all Christian citizens needing to vote.” [Alan Cooperman, The Washington Post, July 1, 2003]

Here’s another one:

The Republican National Committee is employing the services of a Texas-based activist who believes the United States is a “Christian nation” and the separation of church and state is “a myth.”

David Barton, the founder of an organization called Wallbuilders, was hired by the RNC as a political consultant and has been traveling the country for a year–speaking at about 300 RNC-sponsored lunches for local evangelical pastors. During the lunches, he presents a slide show of American monuments, discusses his view of America’s Christian heritage — and tells pastors that they are allowed to endorse political candidates from the pulpit. [Deborah Caldwell, Beliefnet, 2004]

Well, folks, that was then, and this is now: Patricia Ward Biederman and Jason Felch of the Los Angeles Times write that the feds have a different standard for liberal churches.


The Internal Revenue Service has warned one of Southern California’s largest and most liberal churches that it is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status because of an antiwar sermon two days before the 2004 presidential election.

Rector J. Edwin Bacon of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena told many congregants during morning services Sunday that a guest sermon by the church’s former rector, the Rev. George F. Regas, on Oct. 31, 2004, had prompted a letter from the IRS.

In his sermon, Regas, who from the pulpit opposed both the Vietnam War and 1991′s Gulf War, imagined Jesus participating in a political debate with then-candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry. Regas said that “good people of profound faith” could vote for either man, and did not tell parishioners whom to support.

But he criticized the war in Iraq, saying that Jesus would have told Bush, “Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster.”

Apparently the IRS has doctrinal issues with All Saints:

On June 9, the church received a letter from the IRS stating that “a reasonable belief exists that you may not be tax-exempt as a church … ” The federal tax code prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns and elections.

The IRS offered All Saints a dispensation if it agreed to repent:

After the initial inquiry, the church provided the IRS with a copy of all literature given out before the election and copies of its policies, Bacon said.

But the IRS recently informed the church that it was not satisfied by those materials, and would proceed with a formal examination. Soon after that, church officials decided to inform the congregation about the dispute.

In an October letter to the IRS, Marcus Owens, the church’s tax attorney and a former head of the IRS tax-exempt section, said, “It seems ludicrous to suggest that a pastor cannot preach about the value of promoting peace simply because the nation happens to be at war during an election season.”

Owens said that an IRS audit team had recently offered the church a settlement during a face-to-face meeting.

“They said if there was a confession of wrongdoing, they would not proceed to the exam stage. They would be willing not to revoke tax-exempt status if the church admitted intervening in an election.”

The church declined the offer

What’s next? Thumb screws? Iron maidens?

Update: See Steve Clemons, “Religion, Wars, and the IRS: Pro-War Sermons Get Tax Privilege; Anti-War Sermons Not

Update update: See Dave Johnson, “IRS Cracking Down On War Opponents” and John Aravosis, “Bush administration threatens liberal church for being anti-war.”

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26 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Ken Melvin  •  Nov 7, 2005 @10:55 am

    The word I’m getting is that even baptists are getting fed up with this involvement of church and state. Parishoners are beginning to walk.

  2. Rick  •  Nov 7, 2005 @11:53 am

    Mr. Melvin, I surely hope so, this crap pushes the bounds of belief and that is a stretch at this point…

  3. Michael  •  Nov 7, 2005 @12:38 pm

    Do you suppose the IRS has heard about this?

    Bush’s church calls for ending Iraq war?

  4. don surber  •  Nov 7, 2005 @12:49 pm

    I guess you only want separation of certain churches and states, huh?
    Conservative Christian churches also have been warned over the years. Now it is one of yours and oh, my goodness, the tears
    Hey, isn’t the ACLU opposed to all tax exemptions for all churches?

  5. joanr16  •  Nov 7, 2005 @1:17 pm

    Uh, don, didya read maha’s post? The Bushies are the ones who’ve erased separation of church and state… unless it’s a church opposed to Bush policies.

    Gosh maha, I guess you’re right about the opposition’s literacy problem. Sad.

  6. maha  •  Nov 7, 2005 @1:21 pm

    Another rightie with low reading comprehension skills is heard from:

    I guess you only want separation of certain churches and states, huh?

    No, the point of my post is that standards need to be applied equally. Notice that I gave examples of the Republican Party’s double standard. IOKIYAR=It’s OK if you’re a Republican.”

    Conservative Christian churches also have been warned over the years. Now it is one of yours and oh, my goodness, the tears.

    Conservative churches may have deserved the warning if ministers were endorsing candidates from the pulpit. Endorsement of candidates or parties, especially before an election. crosses the line. But religious people throughout American history have taken stands on issues, such as abolition, prohibition, child labor laws, civil rights, abortion etc. That shouldn’t be a problem.

    All Souls says its speaker did not endorse a candidate. It’s not the IRS’s business to regulate what a minister preaches about Jesus and war.

    BTW, I’m a Buddhist; All Souls isn’t “my” church.

    Hey, isn’t the ACLU opposed to all tax exemptions for all churches?

    Perhaps, I never noticed. I’m OK with the exemption as long as it isn’t abused, but if the IRS is going to start to apply the law to some churches and not others, there’s a problem.

  7. janine  •  Nov 7, 2005 @1:24 pm

    Don, Don, Don. This is WHY liberals support the separation between church and state. It ensures the freedom of religion (as well as the lack of religion) without government interference. When the Founding Fathers spoke out in favor of separating the two, it was to protect churches from the kind of persecution that is possible if your sect is not favored by the government. It’s about FREEDOM of religion. If you gave serious thought to policy rather than just winning arguments for your team, you’d see that.

    Can you name a conservative church that has been investigated during this administration?

  8. don surber  •  Nov 7, 2005 @1:54 pm

    Joan:
    I read the post. I disagree. Opinion stated as fact is not fact, it remains opinion.
    The church got political. Two days before the election! And y’all defend that?
    Jesus said render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s — which means butt out of politics.
    I have had my say and shall read the next three posts.
    You are welcome.

  9. maha  •  Nov 7, 2005 @2:02 pm

    I read the post. I disagree. Opinion stated as fact is not fact, it remains opinion.

    I think that means “any fact that inconveniently refutes my opinion can be ignored.”

    Mr. Surber has outed himself at a through-and-through Kool Aider and hypocrite. I don’t think we need to hear from him further.

  10. emel  •  Nov 7, 2005 @2:48 pm

    Not to mention the funneling of tax dollars to the churches who lean the ‘right’ way. this is a scandal and should be on the front page of every paper but won’t be. the public deserves to know the truth about the whole church faith scam going on. Just another republican buying the votes scam with our money and punish anyone who objects.

  11. Kevin  •  Nov 7, 2005 @3:24 pm

    You could not be more off base in your analysis. Conservative Christian churches do not pontificate politics from the pulpit. My church with over 6000 members never, ever speaks of poltics and won’t even allow voter registration drives.

    On the other hand I seem to remember several instances of John Kerry being intoduced in black Christian churches by Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackass.

    If you become more intellictually honest in your liberalism, you will only assist us conservatives in our efforts to keep your ilk out of power.

    Kevin

  12. joanr16  •  Nov 7, 2005 @3:30 pm

    Wow, what planet are these guys on? “Conservative Christian churches do not pontificate politics from the pulpit”!

    Insanity: stating the same untruth over and over, believing that eventually it will become true.

    Kevin is right about one thing, though: conservatives have done a great job of keeping intellectual honesty out of the halls of power.

  13. maha  •  Nov 7, 2005 @4:02 pm

    Y’know, if righties could actually read, which they can’t, they might have noticed that my post doesn’t criticize conservative churches. It criticizes Bush Administration/federal government actions and policies regarding churches.

    My church with over 6000 members never, ever speaks of poltics and won’t even allow voter registration drives.

    Therefore, it is perfectly logical to assume that if one church enforces these policies,they all do. Oh, wait, that’s not logical. Sorry.

    On the other hand I seem to remember several instances of John Kerry being intoduced in black Christian churches by Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackass.

    From the October 5, 2004 New York Times:

    “This summer, Oliver N. E. Kellman Jr., a black lobbyist who switched from Democrat to Republican this year, organized the National Faith-Based Initiatives Coalition to rally black pastors to support Mr. Bush’s re-election. On its Web site, 10 prominent black ministers, including the televangelist Bishop Clarence McClendon of Los Angeles and the Rev. James E. Washington of Dayton, Ohio, endorse Mr. Bush as ‘the right person to execute and continue forward with leading this great nation.’”

    From the November 1, 2004, Washington Post:

    “Bush has courted churchgoers vigorously. Before the rally, he attended Mass at Church of the Epiphany, the home church of his younger brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The pastor, Monsignor Jude O’Doherty, all but endorsed Bush in remarks to the congregation. ‘Your belief in prayer and dependence on God has to be an example for all of us,” O’Doherty said. “As president, your support for the many things of serious concern to us as Catholics is deeply appreciated, among them being your wholehearted support for human life from conception to natural death.’”

    And then there were all those priests calling for Kerry excommunication …

    If you become more intellictually honest in your liberalism, you will only assist us conservatives in our efforts to keep your ilk out of power.

    At least I’m getting a chance to see how the comment ban function works here in WordPress.

  14. Rick  •  Nov 7, 2005 @4:30 pm

    Seems I remember that during the 90′s there were even churches that “discouraged” more liberal members from bieng a part of the fold.
    Also interesting that when a conservative makes a statement they can’t go a whole paragraph without casting a slur. re. Jesse Jackass.

  15. alyosha  •  Nov 7, 2005 @4:33 pm

    I know All Saints Church, and the people involved. They were outspoken about the grocery strike in LA last year. They are one smart, educated, and generally well off congregation. I hope they go to the mat. You don’t push smart people around.

  16. Bonnie  •  Nov 7, 2005 @5:12 pm

    Shades of Richard Nixon.

  17. Swami  •  Nov 7, 2005 @9:42 pm

    At least I’m getting a chance to see how the comment ban function works here in WordPress.

    Do I detect some sort of flypaper theory here?

  18. erinyes  •  Nov 7, 2005 @10:26 pm

    Nothin’ gets folks fired up like that old time religion!

  19. Swami  •  Nov 7, 2005 @11:06 pm

    If it was good enough for grampa..then it’s good enough for me.

  20. Anonymous  •  Nov 7, 2005 @11:41 pm

    Just remember this is part tof the republican machine- reward supporters and persecute dissent

  21. trvis t monk  •  Nov 8, 2005 @2:01 am

    What is good?–Whatever augments the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself, in man.
    What is evil?–Whatever springs from weakness.
    What is happiness?–The feeling that power increases–that resistance is overcome.
    Not contentment, but more power; not peace at any price, but war; not virtue, but efficiency (virtue in the Renaissance sense, virtu, virtue free of moral acid).
    The weak and the botched shall perish: first principle of our charity. And one should help them to it.
    What is more harmful than any vice?–Practical sympathy for the botched and the weak…wheres my gun…

  22. erinyes  •  Nov 8, 2005 @5:41 am

    That reminds me of the joke about the dyslexic who belonged to the church of dog.

  23. PersonOfInterest  •  Nov 8, 2005 @3:32 pm

    Under IRS rules it’s ok to talk about and take stands on ballot propostions from the pulpit. The problem arises when a church advocates voting for a candidate or a political party from the pulpit. That was not done at All Saints. Over the last year the IRS has looked at more than 100 tax exempt organizations – right wing to left wing. None has lost non-profit status. The IRS offered a deal to All Saints: If it would say it violated IRS regulations and promise to comply in the future, the IRS would drop the investigation. This smacks of blackmail and coercion. According to Daniel Burke of Religion News Service, concerning the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign asking for and getting a congregations membership list, that’s o.k. if directories are available to all candidates. It is somehow strange that the IRS goes after All Saints, but not after red state churches who obviously violated IRS regs re: membership lists.

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