IRS: OK for Tax-Exempt Pastors to Encourage Political Involvement

The Internal Revenue Service has found that pastors who gathered for a series of public policy conferences did so within their rights, and did not violate tax laws governing non-profit organizations, Liberty Legal Institute announced today.

"This liberal attempt to intimidate pastors has backfired," said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel of Liberty Legal Institute which represented event organizers. "There is now a clear IRS statement outlining these pastors’ events and approving them as valid under the law."

In January 2008, the IRS began its investigation into the Niemoller Foundation, which held six conferences in 2006 calling pastors to stand up for moral issues and to encourage their congregants to get involved in the political process. The investigation was a result of a complaint filed by a politically liberal organization who accused the non-profit group of breaking the law by trying to influence political campaigns.

Specifically, Niemoller was accused of "encouraging pastors at the gatherings to mount voter registration drives and turn congregants out at the polls." The IRS ruled the meetings were legal.

"We educate churches on moral issues facing our society and encourage them to participate in the democratic process," said Laurence White, director of the Niemoller Foundation and a Lutheran pastor.

"The IRS has unequivocally affirmed the right of pastors nationwide to come together as spokesmen for the Word of God, to interact with political leaders, historians and scholars in discussing the moral issues under debate within our culture and to assert their Biblical responsibility to address such issues from their pulpits."

A number of liberal groups have been involved in a national campaign filing IRS complaints against religious leaders and pastors.

"Be careful what you hear from these liberal organizations," warned Shackelford. "They sound very confident and file many complaints yet none are found valid even by the IRS."

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