Some want you to believe spiritual leaders across the land are a bunch of cowards more afraid of the IRS than the Almighty.
For instance, Wayne Gruden, research professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary, recently opined that since 1954 the IRS has forced churches to refrain from promoting or opposing any political candidate by name.
“The IRS has insists that any speech by churches that deals with candidates for political office, including a pastor’s sermon, could result in a church losing its non-profit, tax-exempt status,” Gruden says. “This law has suppressed the valuable moral guidance that American pulpits could be contributing to our political process.”
Wasn’t it the president’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, who preached, “God damn George Bush?” Haven’t blacks Baptists, Catholics and Jews used the pulpit for political change over the decades?
Was God truly kicked out of government schools that same year as some well-meaning, but ignorant, writers would have us believe? Students in my post-1954 generation prayed every time the words “pop quiz” or “test” were announced.
Like the previous myth, no church has ever lost its tax-exempt status. The only church to ever lose its IRS tax-exempt letter is the Church at Pierce Creek in Binghamton, N.Y. While a member of the church, Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry took out full-page ads in the USA Today and The Washington Times opposing then-Gov. Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Other than mere convenience, there is,
as a church with or without a tax-exempt letter ruling is still tax-exempt.
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) sponsored the third “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” Sept. 26 to challenge the [1954 Sen. Lyndon] Johnson amendment. Dozens of pastors across America preached sermons publicly endorsing or opposing specific candidates and stating from the pulpit why there are biblical and moral grounds on which to base these positions, Gruden says. Many of the sermons were then sent to the IRS with a notification that it was the intent of the pastors to challenge the Johnson amendment.
ADF wants a test case to challenge the 1954 amendment. The fund is prepared to defend a church that falls victim to government regulators against this attack on free speech and freedom of religion. Any fame or fund raising spike the organization receives, well that’s just the cost of fighting the good fight.