Becket Fund Challenges the IRS to Investigate Church

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty challenged the Internal Revenue Service today to investigate Calvary Assembly of God in Algoma, Wisconsin, because Pastor Kenneth Taylor dared to use his pulpit to preach on the moral implications of a political campaign. In an open letter published in [Wednesday's] Wall Street Journal, Pastor Taylor, who is being defended by The Becket Fund, said:

Church Flag"Preaching about politics from the pulpit has always been a part of freedom of speech and freedom of religion in this country… As a preacher, I am obliged to say something about it, and I shouldn't have to worry about how the government might retaliate," said Pastor Taylor. "Last election I delivered a sermon… I challenge you — if you still think it's the law — to investigate what I preached that day." Click here to see a video of the sermon.

"Since our nation's founding, ministers, pastors, rabbis and priests have used their pulpits to inspire fellow believers to political action," said Kevin "Seamus" Hasson, founder and President of the Washington-based Becket Fund. "If Martin Luther King Jr. were preaching today, the IRS would be harassing him for using his pulpit for political activism." From Rev. John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and the New England ministers who fought for the abolition of slavery, to the Civil Rights movement, religious activists have used their pulpits to shape this country. But in 1954, recently-reelected Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson, Texas Democrat and Senate Majority Leader, changed the tax-code to retaliate against a tax-exempt charity that had opposed his candidacy. LBJ's law states that non-profits, including houses of worship, shall not "intervene in" any political campaign.

Fair enough. But clergy speaking to their congregations is not the same as a church, as a legal entity, endorsing a candidate. For 50 years the IRS has used this extremely broad interpretation of this law to censor and intimidate religious leaders of every faith. "Churches and other houses of worship have always been unique places where Americans discuss how their deepest beliefs intersect with their daily lives," said Hasson. "The IRS should not be allowed to stop that conversation by threatening to strip a church's tax exemption."

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  • Guest

    Rome comes to mind where the most powerful institutions of the Italian Republic reside in the buildings which had been subtracted from the Church because the Church would not comply or be silent. The Church had vast holdings and states, now it has been reduced to something the size of a mustard seed.

  • Guest

    It occurs to me that any church that would stop preaching the gospel because the IRS might revoke a tax exemption is not much of a church.

    What would Jesus do?

  • Guest

    What would Jesus do? When St. Peter asked him how they were going to pay their taxes, the Lord replied, "Go catch a fish!"


    "I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for the things you have hidden from the wise and the learned you have revealed to the merest children." -Matthew 11:25

  • Guest

    It seems to me that tax exemption, which has always been part of our Law and Custom from the beginning of the Republic, derives from the separation of Church & State, and not from some allowance provided by Congress or lesser bodies.  It is built into our constitutional framework.  Therefore, the State has no power to regulate what is said in any form in Churches in our land.  The Church only has that right.  For Christian Churches, at least, this goes back to the ancient notion from the Gospel (St John in particular) that the Church is the gate or entrance into the Renewed Creation, The Way, the Truth, and the Life, if you will, and as such, is a separate entity with separate powers from the secular world and culture.  In respecting this notion, American Law adopted the approach that the Truth is better served by Freedom of Speech, so that, on its merits, the Truth can be described and defended, challenged and accepted, rather than by political enforcement.  American Law accepts as part of the Christian Tradition of Law in the West the coexistence of Church and State, and their mutual support.  That is why for instance, the State has never had the power to define marriage, only to defend and uphold it in the political realm, as this is something, a covenant, determined by Divine Law and the Natural Moral Law that political Laws can only build on.  (In the Old Testament, various forms of Covenants can be seen, which is a mutual full sharing of life and property.  This is an ancient form of alliance from before the days of the forming of nations.  But the Covenant that includes sexual relations has always been the province of God alone, since it is the original covenant of life He shared with our parents, Adam and Eve.  God is of necessity part of the Covenant, since human life cannot be transmitted without His breathing the soul and spirit into the man.)   

  • Guest

    I think this is a good case to press in getting some guidance on religious freedom in the USA today. Like all of the rights guaranteed by the US Constitution, the freedom of religion is not an absolute right.  The USA has long intervened in curbing the practice of religions which, for example practice human sacrifice or use psychodelic drugs in their liturgical worship.

    How far is the federal government willing to go in its intervention? That is the pertinent question.

    Is preaching which ties the core principles of the faith to the issues of the day enough to get the government to step in?

    Is preaching that the law of the land is unjust going to do it?

    Is advocacy of Candiate A over Candidate B enough? Is encouragement of activism the trigger?