LOS ANGELES — In a matter of days, some 1,400 American pastors are planning to break the law.
And they’re likely to get away with it.
As part of “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” on Oct. 7, religious leaders across the country will endorse political candidates — an act that flies in the face of Internal Revenue Service rules about what tax-exempt organizations, such as churches, can and cannot do.
Their mission: to endorse political candidates from the pulpit, even though that violates IRS rules about tax-exempt organizations, which are "prohibited from participating in partisan campaigning for or against political candidates." Those preachers want their tax-exempt money and want to keep their financial dealings opaque from the public, but don't want to live by the rules that allow them those benefits.
Churches, more than other kinds of nonprofits, have special protections from having to disclose their financials. Why the privilege? To avoid entanglement between church and state—a firewall that "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" attacks. These preachers want your privileges without having to give up their privileges. They're privilege hoarders.
What's more, the IRS admits that it typically doesn't have the staff or the resources to actually investigate churches that break those rules. So the preachers are attacking the separation of church and state—which they financially benefit from—by breaking a rule they won't be punished for anyway and pretending like they're big, brave warriors for freedom.
What a crock of cowardly, devious, hypocritical bullshit. And some of these jokers have the gall to pretend like they're being persecuted for their special financial status:
Jim Garlow, senior pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, Calif., says the prohibition has caused religious leaders to shy away from speaking about what they see as theological truth, such as the belief that homosexuality is biblically unacceptable.
Really? Really? You know what else is biblically unacceptable? Lying through your teeth. Because America does not lack for churches and preachers railing against homosexuality. In fact, can we find any preachers who've been investigated for speaking about politics from the pulpit?
Oh, wait. Here's one—a liberal, no less!
But the Rev. Susan Russell, an associate pastor at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif., which the IRS investigated several years ago over a 2004 antiwar sermon it claimed was illegal, said churches should dedicate themselves to being robustly political without being partisan.
All Saints, for example, has always taken a stance on social justice issues such as war or the death penalty, but they do so, Russell said, without endorsing specific candidates.
Russell, a gay rights activist, said pastors who participate in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” may claim the movement is about freedom of religion and freedom of speech, but it’s really an excuse to “jam theocracy down throats.”
The "Pulpit Freedom" types are making a show of breaking a rule they know they can get away with, and attacking the separation of church and state when it suits them, while continuing to benefit from the separation of church and state when it suits them. Hypocrites.
But if they want to lawfully engage in partisan politics, the solution is very simple: Give up your special money—or at least hire some secular auditors and make your books public.