It is beyond refute that criminals, from petty shoplifters to vicious mass murderers, adhere to the principle that they do not have to obey laws or rules. Like American corporations, the fossil fuel industry, and Wall Street institutions, they think they are immune to and above the law; likely because of their wealth and influence over Republicans in Congress. That mindset of supremacy over the laws of the land, and really, special entitlement to disregard laws, for whatever reason, still makes violators criminals. One thing those who believe they are above the law share with common criminals is crying foul and claim they are victims of persecution when they are held to the same standards as every other American; this is particularly true of the religious right.
Americans should prepare themselves for an outcry of biblical proportions from the religious right in the near future after the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) won a lawsuit and a settlement with the Internal Revenue Service. The lawsuit demanded that the IRS start cracking down on churches and religious groups who blatantly violate the rules of their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by “electioneering from the pulpit.” The IRS agreed to start doing its due diligence and enforcing the law against mainly Christian evangelical churches that “have been blatantly and deliberately flaunting electioneering restrictions” with impunity because they believe they are above, and immune from, the nation’s laws; because they are evangelical Christians.
At the rate evangelicals blatantly violate the law, one might think there are myriad scriptural admonitions to Christians to openly disobey laws imposed by governments of man, but they would be patently wrong. According to the Christian bible in Romans 13:1-2, Christians are commanded to “Be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”
The bible goes farther in verses 5-6 where Christians are warned that “It is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of (god’s) wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes.” Well, god in all his wisdom could not possibly have known that in America, churches and the clergy class are so special they do not pay taxes, but they are not special enough in the eyes of the law to be free of paying taxes if they campaign from the pulpit. Now, the IRS will finally begin enforcing that small requirement to be free of taxation and the Alliance Defending Freedom is outraged that a court ordered the IRS to force evangelical churches to do precisely as god commanded; “be in subjection to the governing authorities.”
In the FFRF’s lawsuit against the IRS, besides citing a number of specific complaints against churches violating the IRS rules, it informed the court it had filed 27 complaints with the IRS that were never even investigated. The lawsuit asked the court to force IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman “to authorize a high-ranking official within the IRS to approve and initiate enforcement of the restrictions of 501(c)(3) against churches and religious organizations, including the electioneering restrictions, as required by law.” The IRS received a similar court order in 2009, but naturally deferred to the Christian prerogative and supremacy over the law and failed to comply with the court order. The new court-approved settlement means the IRS adopted new procedures to follow through and begin investigations into church and religious non-profit groups in general that are violating the law.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious tax-exempt non-profit that sponsors and organizes “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” where thousands of evangelical preachers actively campaign for Republicans from the pulpit, videotape the violations, and send them to the IRS daring them to take action was incensed at the court’s decision. After wildly celebrating the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, the evangelicals predictably lashed out at the court settlement as a violation of their religious supremacy over the government and American people. The Christian legal group claims their legal agreement with the IRS is unconstitutional because churches have always been above American law. ADF senior legal counsel Erick Stanley said, “For almost the first 200 years of America’s history, pastors frequently spoke out with great boldness about the great moral and social issues of the day and about the candidates running for office. Yet today, the voice of the Church has been silenced by the Johnson Amendment – an unjust and unconstitutional law. Pastors should decide what they preach from the pulpit, not the IRS. It’s outrageous for pastors and churches to be threatened or punished by the government for applying Biblical teachings to all areas of life.” It is a typical criminal mindset that regards having to abide by the law as being “threatened or punished;” especially evangelicals claiming persecution for not being allowed to run roughshod over the people and established law.
First, the Johnson Amendment did not happen “today;” it became a legal government statute in 1954 because a preponderance of churches were violating the Founding Fathers’ Constitutional separation of church and state. Second, “the church” is not being silenced, it is being required to abide by the conditions of its 501(c)(3) status to get free welfare from American taxpayers according to the government god commanded Christians to be in subjection to out of “conscience” and to avoid god’s “wrath.” Third, if evangelical “pastors” were applying “biblical teachings to all areas of life,” they would be preaching to their congregants to “be in subjection to the governing authorities” like god commanded, and lead by example by abiding by their agreement to continue receiving welfare from taxpayers. Taxpayers, by the way, that are in subjection to the governing authorities and abide by IRS rules that takes their money and pays for services evangelical churches use for free.
There is a very simple solution to put a screeching halt to these ADF-inspired evangelicals violating the law and god’s commandment in Romans 13:1-2, and save American taxpayers more than $82.5 billion annually not include a rash of unknown subsidies because churches are not required to keep financial records. It is damn high time to strip tax exemption from every church in America, let evangelical pastors preach according to Republican dictates, start paying their fair share instead of leeching off law-abiding taxpayers, and save them from facing god’s wrath for opposing “governing authorities.”
The reason evangelicals “assume” they are above the law and have supremacy over the governing authorities, women’s bodies, and gays is because they do not pay property taxes on their land or buildings. Do not pay sales taxes when they make purchases, do not pay capital gains taxes when they sell property at a profit, and when they spend less than they take in, do not pay corporate income taxes. Further, priests, ministers, rabbis, and their underlings get unfair “parsonage exemptions” that let them deduct mortgage payments, rent, and other living expenses when they do their income taxes; they also are the only group allowed to opt out of Social Security taxes. Religion is a very profitable business and it is time churches start paying their fair share like every other American; except their American corporate partners-in-crime.
Republicans condemn Americans who receive taxpayer-funded assistance as moochers, lazy, and entitled, even when they pay in to Social Security, Medicare, and sales and gas tax, but they never complain about their reliable evangelical campaigners’ draining billions upon billions from the rest of Americans. It is because of the preferential treatment, and free taxpayer dollars, that the religious right feels entitled, with Republican and Supreme Court support, to flaunt their criminal disregard for the law and force their religion down the rest of the population’s throats.
Most Americans are sick to death of entitled evangelicals leeching Americans’ tax dollars and imposing their dictates on the public. The Freedom From Religion Foundation finally got a court to force the IRS to hold evangelicals accountable for violating a sixty-year-old law the god of the bible says will “bring condemnation upon themselves.” God may condemn them in that bizarre concept of Judgment Day, but until then, a court ordered the IRS to investigate and condemn them to lose their 501(c)(3) status for “electioneering from the pulpit.” For Americans sick and tired of paying evangelicals for violating the law, it is about time. Thank dog for the FFRF.
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.