Pulpit Freedom Sunday - OCTOBER 7, 2012

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm going to preach what I was planning to preach, anyway. Oddly enough, there's nothing in it the IRS would be interested in.

(But I do plan to do a Sunday PM sometime soon on "a biblical view of society and politics." .... Amazingly, still nothing the IRS would be worried about.)

Jim's picture

http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Charitable-Organizations/The-Restriction-of-Political-Campaign-Intervention-by-Section-501(c)(3)-Tax-Exempt-Organizations

Comment:

  • OK to speak out on issues (abortion, etc): FAQ section: “An organization may take positions on public policy issues, including issues that divide candidates in an election for public office as long as the message does not in any way favor or oppose a candidate.  Be aware that the message does not need to identify the candidate by name to be prohibited political campaign activity.  A message that shows a picture of a candidate, refers to a candidate’s political party affiliations, or contains other distinctive features of a candidate’s platform or biography may be prohibited political campaign activity.”
  • OK to speak about campaign initiatives (marriage amendment)
  • Not OK: “all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office”

 

Joel Tetreau's picture

We are working our way slowly through Psalm 23. We are looking at how God deals with our enemies in verse 5. I wonder if there is an implication here with the IRS? Hymmmmmmm.

Straight Ahead!

jt

Dr. Joel Tetreau serves as Senior Pastor, Southeast Valley Bible Church (sevbc.org); Regional Coordinator for IBL West (iblministry.com), Board Member & friend for several different ministries;

Jim's picture

IRS: I'm not a big fan but I don't regard it as the enemy.

 

Churches can't have it both ways:

  • All the benefits of being a 501(c)(3) organization PLUS
  • Property tax exemption PLUS
  • Housing allowance for Pastors PLUS
  • Not paying sales tax on purchases PLUS
  • Tax deductions for donors

Without the balance of not publicly endorsing candidates

 

Additionally a Pastor can easily endorse a candidate without speaking from the pulpit:

  • A personal facebook page where he posts his personal views
  • A blog
  • A yard sign
  • Letters to the editor
  • Personally giving to candidates
  • Bumper sticker 
  • An open house where he promotes a candidate before invited guests
  • Et cetera

If a church wishes to be overtly political (in endorsing candidates), eschew the 501(c)(3) designation

Additionally the church is not prohibited from speaking to issues: Biblical view of marriage, pro-life / anti abortion, etc. The folk in the pew are smart enough to "connect the dots" (eg. Candidate A believes in same-sex marriage ... I don't subscribe to that view .. I won't vote for him)

 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Jim wrote: Churches can't have it both ways:

Why not?

 

Why can't they enjoy the same protection of free speech guaranteed to all citizens in the  first amendment, and still  be recognized in other  ways as an entity providing special benefits to society? What does one thing necessarily have to do with another?

 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Jim's picture

Response to Chip Van Emmerik who said

Why can’t they enjoy the same protection of free speech guaranteed to all citizens in the  first amendment, and still  be recognized in other  ways as an entity providing special benefits to society? What does one thing necessarily have to do with another?

  • Because it is illegal
  • Because it is unnecessary (my previous post) - Churches are only prohibited from endorsing candidates … not against speaking to issues. And if a Pastor wants to endorse a candidate there are far easier ways to do that.
  • Because it is against the charter of the church to preach the Word, and exalt the Lord
Jim's picture

This is in the category of “how to do it right” (ie. stand for an issue)

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Jim wrote:

Response to Chip Van Emmerik who said

Why can't they enjoy the same protection of free speech guaranteed to all citizens in the  first amendment, and still  be recognized in other  ways as an entity providing special benefits to society? What does one thing necessarily have to do with another?

  • Because it is illegal
  • Because it is unnecessary (my previous post) - Churches are only prohibited from endorsing candidates ... not against speaking to issues. And if a Pastor wants to endorse a candidate there are far easier ways to do that.
  • Because it is against the charter of the church to preach the Word, and exalt the Lord

1. Which is the point of the discussion, that the law itself is unconstitutional.

2. See 3

3. I agree the  church should not be a political machine. However, issues are frequently tied to candidates. It is within the purview of the church to preach about issues, even when they are tied momentarily to personalities. This presidential election is a perfect example. The sanctity of life is clearly defied by one candidate. Another only partially fulfills the biblical mandate. Identifying these positions where they agree and disagree with scripture is certainly part of the church's charter, and these issue cannot be divorced from the men representing them any more than when we sound warning about false teachers. We identify their doctrinal error and warn the church about these wolves by name. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

It's a fair question. I think Jim's point is that it's just a bit idealistic. But there is also the matter of rightly understanding the Constitution.

The first amendment doesn't guarantee unconditional freedom of speech. It's always been understood that there are limits on that. The rationale for hitching a limit to tax exemption is that once the gov. grants special liberty to an organization relative to everyone else, it's a very small step away from government subsidizing that organization--relative to everyone else. And government doesn't have the liberty to use its funds and other resources to promote candidates.

So there is some good reasoning behind the limit.

The other factor is just public opinion. We don't have a majority-Christian (at least not majority traditional Christian) population anymore and it's a bit dreamy to think they'll be willing to grant churches a pile of exemptions and also give them completely unfettered political influence as well.

Of the two, I'd gladly trade unfettered political inf. for the exemptions... especially since the degree of specificity involved in backing specific candidates is not central (or really even peripheral) to the church's mission in the world. If you teach that abortion is wrong, that responsibility-weakening labor policy is wrong, that confiscatory taxation is wrong, etc., it's usually pretty obvious what direction that points for voting.