“See what has the IRS stopped in its tracks” was the headline article by Bob Unruh in the September 23 issue of World Net Daily that tells of over one hundred pastors who plan to defy the so-called “Johnson Law” this year. They have designated Sunday, September 26, as “Pulpit Freedom” Sunday and plan to preach “political sermons” and mail the CDs, DVDs, or transcripts of those sermons to the non-profit division of the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, D.C., in order to bait them into a lawsuit to challenge the present law that forbids pastors from participating in partisan politics from their pulpits or in official church publications. The Alliance Defense Fund, based in Phoenix, AZ, is licking their chops to sue the IRS on behalf of the church or churches that have their tax-exemption revoked, so the law can be over turned and the pulpits of America can be free again after these fifty-six years.
This is the third year that this project has been tried, with more pastors apparently taking courage. It started with around 36; last year, there were 8; now, according to WND, it’s up to over 100.
So far the IRS has not taken the ADF challenge, although one of the ADF churches was investigated. But according to a letter posted online by ADF, the Dallas, Texas office of the IRS notified Warroad Community Church in Warroad, Minn., that the review was being closed based on a “procedural issue.” In other words, the IRS played dodge ball.
Kevin Theriot, a senior counsel for the ADF, told WND that the IRS is in an even smaller box this year, because of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, which determined that businesses could not even be told what they can or cannot say. "This is a really tough one for the IRS. They're telling pastors what they can and cannot say from the pulpit,…" The rules were adopted in 1954 after former President Lyndon Johnson found himself bearing the brunt of critical comments from Christian pastors concerned about his behavior in Washington. Before then, according to the ADF, pastors spoke freely from their pulpits, even about specific candidates, issues and elections.
"The IRS should not be used as a political tool to advance the agenda of radical groups bent on silencing the voice of the church and inhibiting religious freedom," Erik Stanley, a senior counsel for the ADF, said. "It is ironic that a group with a name like 'Americans United for Separation of Church and State' continues to exploit a scheme of massive government monitoring and surveillance of churches." He said the real impact of the rules adopted under Johnson's leadership is that pastors are muzzling themselves for fear of an IRS investigation. "Rather than risk confrontation, many pastors have self-censored their speech, afraid to apply the teachings of Scripture to specific candidates or elections.”
Seven Important Questions?
· Where are all of the preachers that have been telling the unregistered church pastors since 1982, when we found out about the dangers of the 501(c)(3) contract, that we didn’t know what we were talking about, and that the IRS wasn’t telling preachers what to preach? Obviously they are nearly in control of the pulpits of America.
· Why do churches want to be tax-exempt, which is a privilege to be granted by a higher authority (the IRS), which is a denial of the Headship of Christ over His church, in violation of Matt. 28:18-20; Eph. 5:23c, etc?
· Why do churches want to give up their non-taxable position of liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment for tax-exemption, which is an inferior position of tolerance or licensure?
· Why do churches want to recognize the jurisdiction of the courts over their churches, and agree up front that they will abide by the decision of the court, whatever that decision will be, even though it may be contrary to the Holy Scriptures?
· Why are these churches willing to risk an IRS church tax inquiry and answer invasive questions, thereby recognizing the jurisdiction of the IRS over the internal affairs of the church?
· Why is ADF saying that churches were free prior to 1954, when they were still under the control of the IRS Code, rather than the Holy Scriptures?
Is this issue a slam dunk for the churches?
The headline of the WND article of Sept. 23 boldly says, “See what has the IRS stopped in its tracks”, referring to the ADF initiative. Obviously, based on this one project, the IRS might give the impression that they are trembling over taking on these preachers, but when you examine the situation further, it is possible that these preachers may come to the same fate as the seven silly sons of Sceva, as recorded in the nineteenth chapter of Acts. The IRS has already won in the courts on this issue. They can afford to play the cat and mouse game with the ADF. Following is an article from the IRS web site examining the facts.
The division within the IRS responsible for overseeing churches and charities is the Tax Exempt and Government Entitities Division. TEGE has created a Web page entitled “Charities, Churches, and Educational Organizations - Political Campaign Intervention.” It is dedicated to the IRS’ most recent activities related to 501(c)(3) and political activity.
A definitive court case on the issue of free speech and political expression is Branch Ministries Inc. versus Rossotti. In that case, the court upheld the constitutionality of the ban on political activity. The court rejected the plaintiff church's allegations that it was being selectively prosecuted because of its conservative views and that its First Amendment right to free speech was being infringed. The court wrote: "The government has a compelling interest in maintaining the integrity of the tax system and in not subsidizing partisan political activity, and Section 501(c)(3) is the least restrictive means of accomplishing that purpose." Updated July 12, 2007
Please note that the church in question had waved their religious arguments under the First Amendment and relied on the inferior speech clause of the First Amendment because the church had given up their First Amendment guarantees, because they were incorporated, were a non-profit organization, and were not operating as a New Testament church. Tragically, the same is true of the hundred churches in the ADF project.
Statement by Attorney Jerald Finney
I am a member of the Alliance Defense Fund (“ADF”) National Litigation Academy Honor Corps. Therefore, one will understand that the following comment is given as constructive criticism.
Those state pastors and churches who are taking part in the ADF “Pulpit Initiative” do not understand the overriding biblical principles and issues at stake. They have already given up their First Amendment protections, to a large degree. They have voluntarily (1) contracted with their sovereign state of incorporation, (2) agreed to five existing federal government restrictions or rules which come with the 501(c)(3) status which they voluntarily applied for and received, (3) agreed to the 501(c)(3) system of tax exemption which allows the federal government and the Internal Revenue Service in conjunction with the courts to unilaterally add additional rules, and (4) agreed that the state courts, not the Lord, will be the final judge when the Internal Revenue Service or any other government agency challenges their alleged First Amendment freedoms. Unlike pastors and churches who refuse legal entity status, state pastors and churches dishonor their love relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and displease Him by submitting to other sovereigns (the state and federal governments). Note: God gave civil government jurisdiction over criminal actions by any individual, whether a member of a church or not.
We are not against these pastors personally nor are we against the ADF. We appreciate their desire to free the pulpits of America so that the gospel can go forth freely, however as the Apostle Paul said, “And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.” [2 Timothy 2:5] We feel that the only way that we can effectively win the war with this beast that we face is to “Go outside the gate” with the Lord Jesus Christ. It cannot be won by staying in the system of tax-exemption and expect to have your cake of - tax deduction - and eat it, too – by receiving tax deductible gifts.
It is not time for fighting the beast with “carnal weapons”, (law suits), it is time for repentance. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God:” [1 Peter 4:17]. Paul the Apostle said, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” [Ephesians 6:13]. It is time for the churches to admit that they have prostituted their position as the Bride of Christ and committed spiritual whoredom with the Anti-Christ for benefits and privileges (tax-exemption and tax deductible gifts). They must give up their corporate position and begin operating as non-legal entities, without legal protection and depend on their God-given lawful protections under the First Amendment. Then we will see a new burst of liberty from the pulpits in America that will produce a Revival of Holiness from those who sit in the pews, which will have an affect on the people that populate the nation.
The Lord Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” [John 8:32].