One of the benefits of citizenship in America is the protection afforded to every resident based on principles or regulations governing conduct, actions, and arrangements. Regardless if it is traffic laws, prohibitions against murder, or simple contracts between two parties, laws and rules are one of the most basic social institutions, and one of the most necessary. It is possible that if people were altruists and adhered to a simple premise like Jesus Christ’s commandment to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” then maybe society would not require rules or laws. One would think that religious leaders would set an example for their congregations to follow by abiding by the law, especially when taxpayers were laying out billions of dollars every year as a gift-by-contract that clergy should honor. However, honor is lacking in several hundred members of the clergy who are preparing to blatantly defy their contract with the government and preach politics from the pulpit in direct violation of their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt religious organization status with the government.
Next Sunday, October 7, about a thousand preachers will violate the requirement they agreed to honor with the Internal Revenue Service by actively providing specific guidance about how to vote on issues and candidates. The yearly ritual started in 2008 to challenge the I.R.S. rules prohibiting campaigning from the pulpit, and it informs the callous disregard the preachers have for the law and financial gifts from American taxpayers. It is important to remember that these members of the clergy are leaders of their respective congregations, and in openly flaunting their contempt for the law, are using god to frighten their adherents to vote for, or against, specific candidates for political office, violate an agreement, and model dishonesty Jesus Christ forbade. According to the agreement churches make with the IRS to receive their taxpayer subsidies, IRC 501(c)(3) “prohibits an organization 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. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements (verbal or non-verbal) made by or on behalf of the organization in favor of, or opposition to, any candidate for public office violates the prohibition against political campaign intervention.”
The ritual, Pulpit Freedom Sunday, is an ongoing attempt to challenge the law so evangelical Christians can do what they have been doing without fear of losing their tax payer subsidies, and despite the clergy’s contention, the law does not violate the preacher’s right to free speech or the religious content of their sermons. However, the approximately 1,000 preachers this year hope the IRS will revoke their tax-exempt status and allow them to take the case before the Supreme Court to begin imposing evangelical state-sponsored religious rules at the taxpayers’ expense. One of the sponsors of Pulpit Freedom Sunday explained why religious leaders have the right to disobey the law and breech their agreement with the government, and as usual, instead of the nation’s founding document (the Constitution), he cites evangelical’s law of the land; the Christian bible.
Chris Clark serves as the senior pastor a Baptist Church in San Diego, and worked alongside Pastor Jim Garlow in the unconstitutional California Prop 8 that discriminates against gays. Clarks says defying the law is god-approved because he has “seen numerous examples in the Old Testament where the Lord’s prophets obediently confronted the civic leaders of their respective day with their sin and with their godless decisions.” Clark, like thousands of evangelical fanatics, believes he is above the law of the land and that the bible is the pre-eminent source of law supplanting the United States Constitution. Clark acknowledges that “Jesus tells us to pay our taxes (Mt 22:21), Paul tells us to submit ourselves to the governing authorities (Ro 13:1), Peter tells us to honor the emperor “(1 Pe 2:17), and yet believes “when civil governments run afoul of god’s laws, they must be publicly declared and re-established. And who must make that declaration? It is God’s messengers – his pastors.” In other words, god’s messengers are the law of the land and American taxpayers have to fork over $25 billion to fund preachers imposing the bible on the entire population.
Tax-exempt religious organizations receive federal tax breaks on donations and exemptions from state and local property taxes that most likely add up to approximately $25 billion in lost revenue each year. That is revenue communities could use for law enforcement, fire protection, sewage and water treatment plants, roads, and schools that members of the churches, and the churches themselves use every day; for free. For example, approximately 9,500 churches, temples, and mosques in New York City avoided paying property taxes valued at about $626 million this year because they operate as tax-free institutions. As communities lay off teachers, police officers, firefighters, and maintenance workers that Mormon Willard Romney endorses, it is a travesty religious leaders defy the law that allows them to suck revenue from taxpayers and communities with impunity.
If an American considered alerting the IRS to the evangelical’s malfeasance, they should not waste their time because many of the preachers intend video-taping themselves breaking the law and sending the evidence straight to the Internal Revenue Service. The fanatics claim the “future of religious freedom depends on a free pulpit to communicate fundamental, biblical principles to congregations across America,” and some preachers will endorse Willard Romney from the pulpit, and others will vigorously criticize President Obama and preach that only real Christians vote for the candidate who opposes gay marriage and abortion.
It is still unclear to many Americans why religious organizations are exempted from paying taxes, and why they merit special treatment when they provide nothing to their communities that taxpayers like community volunteers, school teachers, police officers, or firefighters provide every day without special tax exemptions. It is unconstitutional for taxpayers to be expected to do obeisance, or support financially, any religion in America and it is yet another sign religious fanatics are making up their own religious edicts and expecting taxpayers to subsidize their theocratic coup. How long before the Christian bible, or book of Mormon, replaces the Constitution and some religious maniac issues edicts that become law of the land? The IRS must take a stand and revoke the tax-exempt status from any preacher, evangelical or otherwise, who breaks their agreement with the IRS by campaigning from the pulpit, or giving money to a candidate as per Section 126.96.36.199 of the IRC.
Laws, and rules, are established to protect all Americans and that includes captive religious congregants terrorized by threats of hell-fire and damnation for voting for the wrong candidate. The organizers of Pulpit Freedom Sunday are hoping a court challenge begins “the next great awakening to sweep across this nation” to demonstrate evangelicals contempt for the Constitution, install the bible as supreme law, and usher in a 21st Century theocracy in America.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.