Render unto the Taxpayer

From the New York Times:

This weekend, hundreds of pastors, including some of the nation’s evangelical leaders, will climb into their pulpits to preach about American politics, flouting a decades-old law that prohibits tax-exempt churches and other charities from campaigning on election issues.

The sermons, on what is called Pulpit Freedom Sunday, essentially represent a form of biblical bait, an effort by some churches to goad the Internal Revenue Service into court battles over the divide between religion and politics.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a nonprofit legal defense group whose founders include James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, sponsors the annual event, which started with 33 pastors in 2008. This year, Glenn Beck has been promoting it, calling for 1,000 religious leaders to sign on and generating additional interest at the beginning of a presidential election cycle.

“There should be no government intrusion in the pulpit,” said the Rev. James Garlow, senior pastor at Skyline Church in La Mesa, Calif., who led preachers in the battle to pass California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage. “The freedom of speech and the freedom of religion promised under the First Amendment means pastors have full authority to say what they want to say.”

Of course they should, but they shouldn’t get a tax break while doing so.

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3 Responses to Render unto the Taxpayer

  1. GTChristie says:

    Point well taken. When an organization — religious or otherwise — becomes a political pressure group, the legal standards appropriate to political parties, PACs, lobbyists, think-tanks (etc) should apply. A religious organization might be exempted from taxes because it’s a church, but as soon as it acts as a political organization, its tax status should change accordingly. It should be required to comply as well with relevant regulations on political organizations. A church should not qualify for tax exemption as a religious entity if it acts as a political entity. It must qualify instead under the laws regulating political organizations. At the very least, this probably means that churches should be required to identify how much of their budgets are spent on political activity, and be taxed/regulated accordingly.

  2. Polichinello says:

    I’m wondering how much regulation you should really have over political organizations. I understand the need to maintain transparency, but I honestly don’t see why my contribution to either party shouldn’t be as tax deductible as any other think tank or charity. You are adding to the public discourse. Sure it’s a partisan means, but most every communication is shaded to some degree with party.

  3. John says:

    “I honestly don’t see why my contribution to either party shouldn’t be as tax deductible as any other think tank or charity.”

    I agree. This is one of the reasons why I’d like to see the income tax eventually replaced with a national sales tax. Then, you give your money away to anybody, and it wouldn’t be taxed. We wouldn’t have to decide which organizations are “political” and which aren’t. Suppose I start up an organization that advocates for more government smoking restrictions and also opens hospitals that treat people with lung cancer. Would that be political, a charity, or both?

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