Over the past few years, Republicans have all but boasted, and several federal and state investigations have revealed, that part-and-parcel of being affiliated with the GOP is being corrupt, suppressing voters’ rights, and breaking campaign laws. It is no great shock, then, that the religious right, staunch supporters of corrupt Republicans, are blatantly violating the law right up till Election Day and daring anyone to stop them because they know no-one will. It is an ideal situation that felons, whether violent murderers, pedophiles, or terrorists, would regard as criminal Utopia; conservative Christian clergy regard it as their rightful entitlement because they hold a bible; they do not adhere to its rules, but they hold it and that makes them right.
This column has often commented on the Alliance Defending Freedom, or more aptly named, Alliance Defending Church Crime, crusade to lure the IRS into litigation over the so-called “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” activities every election year. The admitted goal of ADF is to videotape clergy campaigning from the pulpit, send the video to the Internal Revenue Service, lose their tax-exemption, and then appeal to the Papal-contingent on the Supreme Court to strike down the 1954 Johnson Amendment. The Johnson Amendment is the law prohibiting all tax-exempt charities from engaging in political campaigns; believe it or not, churches are actually considered “tax-exempt charities.” When Pulpit Freedom Sunday began in 2008, there were only 33 clergy members willing to violate their 501(c)(3) designation and still collect free money from taxpayers supporting the criminal activities. ADF claim this year more than 1,600 Christian clergy violated the law and extended their one-day “Republican campaign spree” from the pulpit to every Sunday leading up to Election Day in what sounds like an clergy crime spree.
A common refrain from Christian clergy deliberately violating the law, and their covenant with the IRS to receive free taxpayer money for doing nothing, is that “The church is god’s organization — what right does the government have to control this?” That was the statement of Rev. Kevin Baird of Legacy Church in Charleston, S.C.. Actually, good and right Reverend Baird brings up a two very prescient points that warrant answers from ADF and the over 1,600 criminal members of the clergy.
First, if the church is god’s organization, and there is no reason to doubt an honest, law-abiding member of the evangelical clergy, then why are Christians afraid to let god magically provide over $82.5 billion in welfare that American taxpayers are funding every year, and getting absolutely nothing in return? Second, and this is a very important spiritual question; why are the churches and clergy in god’s organization violating his immutable word, and stark commandment, to obey the governing authorities and pay taxes (Romans 13: 1-6)? It is a sin to violate any god or biblical edict according to the religious right, and yet they are violating a god-commandment with the same ‘sod off’ attitude as they have while violating a simple IRS requirement to receive free taxpayer money to the tune of what by now must be close to a hundred billion dollars every year.
One of the co-founders of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), Annie Laurie Gaylor, rightly said of the law-breaking Christian clergy that “You can’t have a tax-exempt entity engaged in politics because that involves using tax-exempt money for political purposes, so it’s an unfair playing field.” Gaylor is correct, but like the corrupt Republicans the religious right supports, they only understand playing unfair; likely according to their Neo-American Christianity (NAC). It is noteworthy that FFRF did sue the IRS in 2012 for failing to enforce electioneering restrictions on churches, and they did win a settlement earlier this year. According to the settlement approved by a federal court, the IRS acquiesced to doing its taxpayer-funded job and prosecute clergy and churches violating the law, but there have been zero 501(c)3 revocations.
The IRS clearly understands that this is America and this country holds a different set of legal standards for Christians, particularly evangelical churches and clergy, than the rest of the population. The IRS is well-aware that, although there is nothing in the Constitution or federal legal code regarding religious impunity, it is a mortal sin to utter anything but high praise for Christianity, much less require compliance to a 60-year old federal statute costing taxpayers well over $82.5 billion annually. Fear of violating that unspoken mortal sin is why no federal agency including the IRS, or politician from the President of the United States to the lowliest rural dogcatcher, will ever denounce clergy violations or enforce any law against a Christian church; it is just not done in a nation on the verge of becoming a theocracy.
Americans need to comprehend that this midterm election is as much about hastening the conversion, by GOP and Supreme Court fiat, of this nation from a dying representative democracy to a full-blown Christian theocracy. A theocracy the bible crowd are going all-out on Election Day to take this country back to and impose Puritanical colonial laws. It has not been enough that over 1,600 Christian clergy blatantly violate the law and campaign for religious-right Republicans from the pulpit every Sunday and still collect their taxpayer-funded welfare. There is a well-organized cabal of Christian fascists and their Republican facilitators fear-mongering that, among other things, the federal government without Republicans in charge is America’s ISIS inflicting violence and persecution on Christians exactly like their Islamic State cohorts in Syria and Iraq.
There is an easy solution that allows Christian clergy to stump for religious Republicans and Koch corporatism every Sunday and save Americans close to a hundred billion dollars a year; revoke their tax-exemption with extreme prejudice. However, even mentioning that solution is a mortal sin against the religious right, and one is very well aware that making that suggestion will engender the typical death threats from the ‘followers of Christ’ sect that, besides showing up at this author’s door, will flock to the polls to vote for whichever Republican their preacher campaigned from the pulpit for over the past month. It is why voting is crucial because there is no doubt every evangelical Christian in the nation will flock to the ballot box and vote for theocracy; especially since many polling places are situated in the same churches violating their 501(c)3 agreements and god’s command to obey the governing authority and pay taxes.
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.