The Associated Press made the startling announcement on May 9 that the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is actively recruiting pastors to challenge the so-called, “Johnson Law” on September 28 and preach a sermon from the pulpit in which they will advocate the support of particular candidates in the fall election. If the action triggers an IRS investigation, the Arizona-based legal group will sue to overturn the federal rules, which were enacted in 1954.
Under the IRS code, churches can distribute voter guides, run voter registration drives, hold forums on public policy and invite politicians to speak to their congregations. However, they cannot endorse a candidate, and their political activity cannot be biased for or against a candidate, directly or indirectly; neither can a church support specific legislation.
The Alliance Defense Fund said that the regulations amount to an unconstitutional limit on free speech and government intrusion into religion.
“It certainly does have a chilling effect,” said Mike Johnson, senior counsel for the fund. “I think that there is a lot of fear and intimidation and disinformation about the parameters that do exist.”
Johnson said about 100 pastors have expressed interest in participating so far. He also revealed that the IRS has stepped up monitoring of nonprofit political activity during the 2008 election. Punishments can range from a financial penalty to loss of tax-exempt status.
IRS investigations are confidential and the agency does not discuss the cases. However, the United Church of Christ, where Sen. Barack Obama was a member, has said that it is under IRS review because of a speech given by the Democratic presidential candidate at the denomination’s national meeting last year.
The New York Times has broken the story that Bill Keller, host of the Liveprayer TV program and founder of Liveprayer.com, with over 2.4 million subscribers to his Daily Devotional, is under investigation for possibly violating his tax exempt status in speaking out last year against former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's Mormon beliefs. Keller, who was the first Christian leader to speak out nationally against Romney's beliefs, coined the phrase, "A vote for Romney is a vote for Satan."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, an advocacy group in Washington, monitors church political activity and consistently files complaints with the IRS. They said Friday that they will notify the agency of any pastor who participates in the ADF campaign.
In 1934, an important change was made to the IRS by establishing an additional qualification for tax-exempt status and contributions to non profit organizations. This change made, “ …the deduction for contributions to an organization a substantial part of whose activities is participation in partisan politics or in carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation.” Internal Revenue Code-1934 (IRC). Its proponents in Congress said that it would close loopholes that would raise another $258 million in revenue in otherwise “avoided taxes.”
On April 2, 1934 Sen. Harrison of Mississippi gave this additional condition: “I may say to the Senate that the attention of the Senate committee was called to the fact that there are certain organizations which are receiving contributions in order to influence legislation and carry on propaganda. The committee thought there ought to be an amendment which would stop that.”
In 1954, another important change was implemented by Congress, which originated in the Senate from the floor rather than in the committee on Finance. On July 2nd, then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson offered an amendment to Sec. 501(c)(3) of the IRC. LBJ believed a private tax-exempt foundation was indirectly contributing to the campaign of one of his political opponents. His amendment added the words, “and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office” directly after the earlier prohibition against influencing legislation.”
In 1987, the parenthetical phrase “(or in opposition to)” was inserted after ”on behalf of.” The effect is clear; the new prohibition against campaigning is stricter than the old one against influencing legislation. The latter prohibits any amount of influence in the political arena, while the former allowed a rather uncertain ‘substantial part.’ However the IRS is still using the ‘substantial part’ test today, which shows that they are leaving themselves some wiggle room in the matter of revoking tax-exemptions.
The Basis of the ADF Challenge
It grieves us that the Alliance Defense Fund is challenging the IRS on this issue because we believe them to be on the wrong track Biblically and constitutionally. Tax-exemption in itself is Biblically and constitutionally wrong.
To qualify for an exemption is a violation of the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”. To get the exemption the church first must violate the headship of the Lord Jesus Christ and must declare that it is under the authority of the IRS as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, rather than non taxable as an organism, the Lord’s church or body – Corpus Christi.
The latter is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution; the former is not. That’s the reason it says, “Congress shall make no law…” But Congress can make laws for legal entities such as corporations or associations that the state brings into existence.
The ADF may win their case, but it will only be because the government believes it is to their advantage in some way. However, if they lose, it will mean that we have taken a giant step downward even further into slavery.
It would be far better if these churches would abandon their law suit, take measures to get out of their state church status and then stand on solid Biblical and Constitutional grounds.
Dick Greb of the Save-A-Patriot Fellowship of Westminister, Maryland, states,
What this means is that Congress is willing to subsidize (at public expense) certain organizations by way of exemptions and deductions, but is only willing to subsidize political lobbying activities to a limited degree. Therefore, if you engage in too much lobbying, you will become ineligible both for the exemption and for receiving deductible contributions. And so compromise rears its head. Is it more expedient to be a tax-exempt religious corporation, and so be eligible to receive deductible contributions, but have to sacrifice preaching and advocating the whole Word, and eschew any supposed worldly advantage of exemptions and deductions?
Many Americans find it disturbing that some of our churches today are little more than milquetoast corporations that fear our federal government more than the great I AM. Moreover it can even be said that some preachers have the appearance of cringing, ‘politically correct’ cowards, rather than committed Godly men of fortitude with backbone, such as those we read of in the Bible (e.g., Matthew 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he [John the Baptist] said to them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?).” [Trail of Blood Revisited by Dr. Greg Dixon – pgs. 120, 123.
Rather than engaging in lawsuits to create bad law, even in case of a win or loss, it would be far better for these churches to repent of their sin of spiritual whoredom by jumping in bed with government for protection and provision through incorporation and tax-exemption.
It would be better to go “outside the camp” with the Lord Jesus and have his blessing and fellowship, and receive a Crown of Life, rather than to remain in Caesar’s grip and lose it all at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
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