IRS being sued for ignoring tax-exempt churches' political activities

The IRS is facing a lawsuit over its failure to enforce the church electioneering ban that's been in place since 1954. The Internal Revenue Code prohibits tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations - including churches - from intervening or participating in political campaigns on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate.

But, many churches are ignoring that law. In an annual event called “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” pastors from more than 1,000 churches have challenged the regulation by preaching about political topics. The group did this leading up to the 2012 election as well - with many pastors flat out endorsing Mitt Romney for President in their daily sermons.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing the IRS for its “policy of non-enforcement of the electioneering restrictions” when it comes to churches and religious organizations. So - isn't this the real IRS scandal? Should churches and pastors be allowed to openly preach politics? According to IRS regulations - "501(c)(4) [organizations] provide for exemption from federal income tax of civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare." Somehow, the word “exclusively” is being left out of enforcement, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation says that must change.


DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 9 years 39 weeks ago

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is right. Separation of church and state is a two way street. The IRS in fact is allowing a religious institution to craft and legislate public policy with public money. With all the problems this Government has with corruption, we need to encourage a theocracy like we need a hole in our head. I certainly hope the DOJ and SCOTUS uphold the Constitution on this one; or, a bad decision here might prove as bad or worst than Citizens United.

Mike-C's picture
Mike-C 9 years 39 weeks ago

Barry Goldwater, a Republican Senator, Republican nominee for the Presidency in 1964, a very publicized politician in his day -

Goldwater quote:
"Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them."

Said in November 1994, as quoted in John Dean, Conservatives Without Conscience (2006)

Looks like Barry knew what was coming.

michaelmoore052's picture
michaelmoore052 9 years 39 weeks ago

Religion itself should be taxed. Call it a "superstition tax." Every word should be taxed $1 to help pay for their murderous wars of stupidity. As a matter of fact, just arrest them for inciting stupidity. And let's quit sending money to the religious warlords in the middle east and Israel and Egypt. Let's separate religion and state. They want to be a religious state? Fine. Let them support themselves.

MiniMax's picture
MiniMax 9 years 39 weeks ago

I'm a member of a Unitarian Universalist church. Most of our members are tree hugging liberals and our sermons commonly take a liberal (what Jesus taught) position. Nevertheless, I would be willing for our church to loose its tax exempt status if the conservative churches will do the same.

LanceM's picture
LanceM 9 years 39 weeks ago

So many good comments and thoughts above...........Goldwater was correct.............

As are michaelmoore052, and the others above.

I hope the suit succeeds!!!'s picture 9 years 39 weeks ago

Yes the Churches pretty much preaches “Vote for the capitalist that protects the fetus, but starves the infant.”

The tax issue is extremely complicated. Do you allow deductions for various Churches that are legitimate Churches, but make it possible for questionable maybe even fake churches to just drain our Treasury?

There is the “Separation from Church and State Theory” that in itself is wrought with controversy. On top of this why do we even do anything, but have publicly funded elections in the first place?

Thom how many issues do you want to touch on with this one topic?

This one is a little bit like how right pulls off with complicity from the center as there is no left; make things so confusing we can make them forget they are out of work, starving and the banks/corporations have completed the theft of all they have, on top of destroying their future.

douglas m 9 years 39 weeks ago

Americas Constitution ""seperation of church and state"

From the words of a visiting european-

I have never seen politics preached from church before.

Just another lie from the constitution and our government.

What else can I tell them? Its embarassing to live here and be a part of the lies in front of ours friends from other countries. When will we not be a joke about everything in our politics?

rs allen 9 years 39 weeks ago

I'm still 60 plus years down the road trying to figure out just how religion rate some tax exempt status. Those organizations have ALWAYS been political in one way or another.

How do you think they got their tax exemption?

keenanone's picture
keenanone 9 years 39 weeks ago

I really wish people were a bit more coherent in their grammar and syntax so I could get a better idea of what they are trying to say because I think some of the comments make good points. I like the line geo that some churches preach "vote for the capitalist who protects the fetus but starves the infant." I 've been saying something similar for years to no effect whatsoever--right-wing christians care about people only until they're born. But the lawsuit will probably go nowhere. Under our jurisprudence you cannot sue any governmental entity for failing to perform its designated duties unless it has made itself open to suit under the Federal Tort Claims Act. That's why you cant sue the police department for refusing to arrest someone when they've committed a criminal act, such as George Zimmerman. The police are not determiners of facts. so the case will likely be dismissed.

Also the tax-exempt status of churches is not complicated. They are never allowed to endorse candidates, include purely political speech in any function or on church grounds, or in any publication. Not so with social issues or controversies such as birth control or abortion, racial conflict, immigration and the like. But it has been so long since the IRS made any attempt to enforce the rules against political action by churches that many now openly and flagrantly violate them. "Separation of church and state" is not a theory or controversy. The constitution states "Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion." That restriction is made applicable to any state action by the 14th Amendment and the interpretation of the "Establishment Clause" has been developed in jurisprudence by the Supreme Court ever since Marbury v. Madison which I know Thom hates and argues vociferously against but we are a common-law nation for the most part and that issue is stare decisis, a done deal (sorry Thom.).

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 9 years 39 weeks ago

Yea!!! Let's hear it for FFRF...standing up for freedom FROM religion and separation of church and state...exactly the way it should be!!! I don't care how liberal a church is...and especially if they are conservative...churches have no business (especially if they have tax exempt status) to preach to their congregations on a political stance. The liberal churches (way fewer than the conservative churches) wouldn't feel the need to be so political were it not that the conservative churches seemed to be getting away with it... and unduly influencing elections.

Imagine there's no heaven.....
It's easy if you try..
No Hell below us..
Above us only sky.
--Lyrics of Beatles song--Imagine

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 9 years 39 weeks ago
Quote the Churches pretty much preaches “Vote for the capitalist that protects the fetus, but starves the infant.”

....and canon fodder of our adult sons and daughter!

2950-10K's picture
2950-10K 9 years 39 weeks ago

Part of Pat Robertson's pact with the devil includes the call for the assassination of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez as well as an Egyptian style uprising against that socialist known as Barack Obama. Last I knew his 700 club was tax exempt!

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead to suit their own desires, they will gather arond them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." 2 Timothy 4:3-4

So you can't say the ole prophet.... of Paul's best Democratic Socialist buddies, didn't warn us about Teabaggers, Fox, Koch funded political organizations, and zealots like Robertson.

Wow...... Pap has done a great job sitting in for Thom!

Kend's picture
Kend 9 years 39 weeks ago

Don't unions fall under the same 501 law. Be careful. That is a lot of political money that would go away for the left.

ayakitzapim's picture
ayakitzapim 9 years 39 weeks ago

Remove their tax-exempt status NOW. We are not a theocracy.

bobcox's picture
bobcox 9 years 39 weeks ago

ST. Paul's statement conceerning criticising members of a church (in his times it was a cottage congregation)it was proper to critiquese only oly on doctrine, not the political positon. If one disagrees with a poolitical posiition on theological grounds, it would be proper but not to promote a particular candidate.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 9 years 39 weeks ago

FFRF Court Victories: 23 Victories

2013: 6
FFRF Wins First Faith-based Challenge
FFRF Wins Montana Faith-based Challenge
FFRF Challenges Funding of MentorKids
FFRF Halts University of Minnesota "Faith/Health" Entanglement
FFRF v. Gonzales : FFRF Sues Federal Bureau of Prisons over Faith-based Prison Programs
FFRF Wins Challenge of "Chaplaincy" For Indiana Family & Social Services

2012: 3
Ended Religious Cancellations by Post Office
FFRF and Whiteville settle lawsuit over crosses
Virginia School Removes Ten Commandments

2008: 2
FFRF Sues County of Manitowoc, Wis. over Catholic Creches
FFRF Wins School Child Evangelism Subsidy

2007: 2
FFRF Wins Against Green Bay Creche (Settlement)
FFRF Stops Public School's Promotion of Religious Activity

2005: 1
FFRF Wins Ten Commandments Case

2004: 1

2001: 1
FFRF Wins Against Direct Funds to Parochial Schools

2000: 2
FFRF Wins Lawsuit: Post to "Assist Clergy" Unconstitutional
Jesus Statue in Public Park Sold, Fenced

1998: 1
FFRF Lawsuit: Pope Monument in Park Modified

1996: 2
FFRF Alabama Chapter Won Two Cases
FFRF Wins Good Friday State Holiday Challenge

1993: 1
Mayor Forced to Disclaim "Day of Prayer"

1984: 1
Ended Church Entanglement with Public University

bobbler's picture
bobbler 9 years 39 weeks ago

Lots of great points.

- I disagree that the dem party is the most afraid of the Occupy movement. More than that that Republicans? It just doesn't have the ring of truth. Although I will say that Obama is acting more like a Republican Than a Democrat in so many ways.


is exactly the same thing as freedom of religion.. there is no theory about it. The meaning of the First Amendment is clear separation of church and state, is how we get to have freedom of religion. And if we can't be free from religion (Context of govt remaining neutral in religious matters), there is no freedom of religion for anyone..

I left these blogs maybe 2 years ago, because of Tom honestly acting like a fundy Christian, saying that atheism is a religion. what text me off about thisis that claiming atheism is a religion, is it is something that fundamentalist Christians like to do. And I gave very good reasons why atheism is not a religion. but no I do not want to hijack this thread.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 9 years 39 weeks ago

Dan Barker and wife, Annie Laurie Gaylor are both co-presidents of FFRF: (Dan was once a very devout evangelist who wrote and played (piano) religious songs in both English and Spanish...still sung and played today by religious groups. They have a web site and also you can listen to their podcasts where they often interview various popular and famous personalities).

Dan Barker, FFRF co-president, asks, “What do churches have to hide? Why don’t they want to be accountable to the public?”

“Look at Jonestown, Guyana, to see [what] can happen when tax-exempt churches are not accountable to the government, or necessarily to anyone,” Gaylor added. “Had Rev. Jim Jones had to account to the government for the wealth, armory and even the foster children he and his church amassed, I believe that heinous slaughter in 1978 would have been averted.”

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 9 years 39 weeks ago

bobbler: I agree! Atheism is not a religion. It merely states that there is no good reason, because there is no good evidence to believe in a supernatural being...a god or gods, ghosts or goblins, saints or demons...etc. Well, I kinda over stated it there. Atheism merely is the opposite of theism and theism means believing in God. People who believe in God are religious. They may try to denounce organized religions..but they are still religious. There are various interpretations that various dictionaries make but the predominant and historical definitions all include the belief in God. Atheists don't believe in God and therefore cannot be considered as religious or of a religion.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 9 years 39 weeks ago

bobbler: on the other hand...perhaps, one's worst enemy is the one hidden behind what you thought was a ally. Just follow the money-political trail and see how they act...not what they say.

But I gather you are aware of it already.
"Although I will say that Obama is acting more like a Republican Than a Democrat in so many ways."

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 9 years 39 weeks ago

Well said, MiniMax! But I doubt that those who are running your church will agree. Maybe I'm wrong? It seems to me that unless church members are praying that the US becomes a theocracy (with their particular religion at the top dictating things), that it would be better for them to support separation of church and state because then the state would have less say in what a church can do. Usually, if you are getting benefits from the state, you will have various mandates that you will have to abide by. Like: tax exempt status only if you don't use the pulpit to campaign politically.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 9 years 39 weeks ago

One of the things that might make some people believe that atheism is a religion is if you look at Humanism. They claim they are atheists but they try to claim they are more moral than people who are religious and they, in my opinion, act more like a dogmatic religion than atheists who don't consider themselves part of the Humanist movement. Being an atheist really has nothing to do with morals. There are moral atheist just as there are immoral ones...same for religious people. Morality is subjective anyway and often varies from culture to culture. Some people like to think that there is a Universal Morality, and they all, inevitably, believe that theirs is the standard upon which all others should abide. Many moral beliefs are contrived by religious beliefs and try to dominate all others.

Another thing, if you ever listen to a FFRF broadcast or podcast will get what sounds very much like religious music (although it is usually some sort of mock or pun on religion). They often play the Beatles' Imagine. So, someone might get the impression that atheism is a religion...but it's not.

Martutu's picture
Martutu 9 years 39 weeks ago

It is the cruxt of our civilization. Once our species takes religion, which is based on ego, fear, racism, homophobism, etc., out of of how we govern ourselves, we will have a chance of survival. Religion holds us back. I hold no grudge on anyone who believes in any faith/discipline/philosophy but I stand against them when they put those beliefs into our laws/government structure.

Palindromedary's picture
Palindromedary 9 years 39 weeks ago

This is my transcription of a part of Chris Hedges' speech:
note: the spoken word is often more informal than the written word..and when one transcribes verbatim what one says in a speech, the tones or inflections may not be apparent and it may not be as pretty or understandable as if reading something written. I am not a professional transcriber and my hearing is not so good anymore so please forgive me if you have problems deciphering the following. However, if you want to listen to the entire speech then go to:

Quote my transcription of a part of Chris Hedges speech:Section 1021 of the NDAA says that the government, the military, is permitted to seize US citizens who (quote-unquote) substantially support (that's not a legal term- that's not 'material' support) Al Qaida, The Taliban, or something called 'associative force'...again, a 'nebulous' term, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military facilities. That law was passed for the Occupy Movement. And When Judge Flores, Katherine Flores, last September, in the Southern District Court in New York ruled the law in our favor and declared the law unconstitutional in her 112 page opinion (which is worth reading) she said that "this law, in essence opens up the possibility for the government to indefinitely detain an entire class of people based upon what they believe. And she cited the example of the 110,000 Japanese Americans who were detained in WWII. An illustration of what this law allows. Now, you know the Obama administration, when we won...the day we won, said..not only the federal attorneys into the office, but suddenly appeared with Pentagon attorneys. And they asked Judge Flores, "In the name of national security" they asked Judge Flores to immediately pass a temporary injunction...meaning put the law back into affect until the Appellate Court hears the case. She refused. They then went to the Appellate Court and demanded (it was a Friday afternoon) demanded an emergency hearing at 9:00AM on Monday the 2nd Circuit...which they got. Again, asking the Appellate Court to put the law back into affect, lift the injunction until the Appellate Court, which is now deliberating on the case, issues it's ruling. Now, we knew that the Obama administration would appeal but we didn't know that they would act that aggressively. And that can only mean one thing. And that is that they were already using the law. Probably against dual Pakistani-US nationals in places like Bagram And the reason they had to issue the injunction was because they had to..if they are, in fact, holding US citizens (as I believe they are in some of our 'black sites')..and that injunction was allowed to stand..then they would be held in contempt of court. That's what we're up against!

The Occupy movement scared the hell out of the government!

If we begin to build as the Occupy Movement did, effective forms of resistance, we can expect tremendous blowback. Because internally, the corporate state is utterly corrupt and rotten. And the reason they passed the NDAA is, I believe...this is speculation, is because they know that, eventually, there will be unrest and they don't trust the police to protect them. And they're right! The police, for whatever egregious acts they carried out in the streets of Oakland or New York or anywhere else during the Occupy encampments, are 'working class'. They have sister-in-laws who have lost their jobs as school teachers. They have family members who are living on unemployment..if they are lucky enough to still get unemployment. They are working in New York City for $37/hour as 'Rent-a-Cops' at Goldman Sachs watching men with $8,000 suits walk past them like they are furniture.
If the Green Party has any hope of becoming a credible player it better do a complete about face and begin to focus on the kind of logistics that make resistance possible. Long discussions about the evils of corporate capitalism, or showing another film at a college campus is, I think, is an utter and complete waste of time. We don't have time for it. And I think that it's clear from the Occupy Movement that there are millions of Americans who understand the precarious situation that all of us are living in...and are ready to respond. And you saw that with the upsurge of populist support for the Occupy Movement...which caught the Occupy Movement completely off guard. And the fact is that the Occupy Movement, when you think about it, was a 'main-stream movement'. It articulated the concern of the 'main-stream'.
Of course, the force that was most frightened of the Occupy Movement was the Democratic Party..because the Occupy Movement utterly exposed the bankruptcy of the Democratic Party.

bobbler's picture
bobbler 9 years 39 weeks ago

Atheists believe there Is no god in the same sense as "I believe I'll have another beer." Not believing is the strong sense of atheism, so it is clearly wrong to say atheists believe (there is no god), then use that play on words to claim atheism is a religion. Why do fundies work so hard on this point? who the hell knows, but its "net" affect serves to demonize atheists as fools and it is highly annoying when a liberal colludes with that...

But seriously, I don't want to troll blow up this discussion of the good work the ffrf is doing..

SO PKEASE IGNORE the Fundy troll that comments on this (there always seems to be one around to blow up serious discussions).

8/8/13 1230am corrected version above.

bobbler's picture
bobbler 9 years 39 weeks ago

Yes, after observing both Clinton, and now Obama even worse, talking like liberals to get elected, then governing like moderate Republicans.. I am voting green from now on, unless I see a democrat who votes on the issues like a democrat..

The common retort when someone asks why there are so few liberal politicians, is that the people would never vote for a liberal. So why then do democrats talk like liberals during election campaigns?

After agonizing over 20 years on this point, finally decided if you don't vote your conscience, you have thrown your vote away.. Because supporting democrats that are only marginally better than the total nuts (right wing Republicans), entrenches the system of allowing big money to stay in control (rather than the voters) no matter who wins the ekection (since the two major parties are substantially similar today).

Intermittent Instigator's picture
Intermittent In... 9 years 39 weeks ago

“You are too intelligent to believe in God.”

- Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum (a/k/a Ayn Rand)

PLSzymeczek's picture
PLSzymeczek 9 years 39 weeks ago

Thom - I have to tell you that I think it is a mistake to associate yourself with The Daily Caller. Those people over there are vicious!

Loren Bliss's picture
Loren Bliss 9 years 39 weeks ago

Obviously the real issue here has two parts. One is (again and as always), the fact the Democrats and the Republicans are but factions within the One Party of Two Names that rules the United States for the capitalist aristocracy known as the One Percent. The other is the extent to which the entire Ruling Class -- the One Percent and the politicians, the bureaucrats, the military officers, the police commanders, the executives and the professionals who obediently serve these Wall Street aristocrats -- is quietly but fanatically committed to the global imposition of Abrahamic theocracy, whether Judaic, Christian or Islamic.

This is why, for example, the so-called "liberation of Iraq" was in fact engineered to enable Islamic fundamentalists to take over the one genuinely secular state in the entire Islamic world. It is also why Hillary Clinton clandestinely collaborates with Sam Brownback to abolish women's sexual freedom in the United States. (For documentation of Hillary's commitment to theocracy and how she functions as a traitor both to her gender and to the principles of religious freedom, see pgs. 272-276 of The Family: the Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power [Jeff Sharlet; Harper: 2008])

In either case, the objective is to employ the core savagery of Abrahamic religion -- particularly its hatred of women and Nature and its endorsement of divine-right rule (whether by the kings of yesterday or the executives of today and tomorrow) -- to brain-police and opiate all the rest of us as we are herded into capitalism's slave pens. The intent, as always under capitalism, is the total enslavement of all of us who are not part of the Ruling Class. The goal is an electronically enforced, theologically sustained tyranny intended to guarantee the One Percent's wealth and power literally forever.

The USian model -- I refuse to call it "American" because, at least at present, there are still many nations in the Americas that remain outside the USian imperial boundaries -- is of course the post-Civil-War South, which has been a de facto theocracy since the late 1860s. The Ku Klux Klan is colloquially known as "the Saturday Night Men's Bible Study Class" because of how, in addition to its activities as a racist death squad, it traditionally functions as the Christian equivalent of the breathtakingly sadistic Islamic Morality Police.

In this environment, where the Big Lie of "American democracy" is so vividly revealed, it is absurd to imagine the One Percent has allowed the appointment of any higher-court judges who would dare thwart capitalist governance -- that is, absolute power and unlimited profit for the Ruling Class, total subjugation for all the rest of us -- by ruling in opposition to the theocratic onslaught. Of course I support the Freedom From Religion Foundation's lawsuit, but I have no doubt it will fail.

bobbler's picture
bobbler 9 years 39 weeks ago

Although I believe Democrats and Republicans are factions of the same party, both controlled by the one percent;

is it a viable option for us to vote for a third party?

ideally voting for third parties could change the Democratic Party from Within, in the sense of the quote:

if the people lead the leaders will follow.

another big part of me feels that big money only cares about this election cycle, because it's a winner take all system of government. So when we vote for a third party, we literally do help Republicans take all. I do not believe this will wake up the voters, after watching and thinking of Voters would wake up when Reagan was president.. hell the voters didn't even wake up when Bush 2 was president.

and unfortunately when the voters vote for change we end up with more of the same with a Blue Dog Democrat, governing not much different than Republicans. This is because big money is in control of the environment.

And I am open to practical suggestions how we can change this. with politics a wash and unbelievable amount Of corporate money, and other 1 percent powers controlling the media, so they can fool the voters with propaganda. It seems We have no power that can go against big money's power, to fool enough people to sway elections in their favor. Possibly the only solution is revolution, and our government is already gearing up military style, such as we have seen during the Occupy protest.

America is solidly a fascist dictatorship today, and big money is the dictator.

ckrob's picture
ckrob 9 years 38 weeks ago

My church is completely supported by voluntary contributions through which we do many charitable activities, support music education (choirs), food pantries, etc. In doing so, we neither make a profit nor advocate for political candidates. Sermons generally advocate for the poor, peace and treating all people as we would wish to be treated. I like to think the world is a somewhat better place for our church's efforts. Were our facility taxed at the usual per square foot rate by city, county and school entities, (taxes already payed by all our members individually) we would have to close our doors and discontinue our programs. I strongly support separation of church and state because both are better as a consequence, I think. Yes, the IRS is a necessary part of maintaining that separation when they distinguish where politicking replaces general ethical suasion. Perhaps we should attend to fabulously profitable corporations which pay no taxes before we go for the scraps from nonprofits?

bobbler's picture
bobbler 6 years 39 weeks ago

"Re-reading because it popped up as a FB memory.

3-years later, I agree with Palindromedary.

"""bobbler: on the other hand...perhaps, one's worst enemy is the one hidden behind what you thought was a ally. Just follow the money-political trail and see how they act...not what they say."""

Well said. I find myself voting green the selection, against a zombie army of peer pressure to vote for Hillary. Vote for Hillary because will get trump. But Hillary's 5000 paid Internet trolls have demonized Trump to equal Hitler. With so much mud slinging on both sides I don't feel like I know anything about trump (if the argument is valid to vote for Hillary because will get trump). Frankly I don't see how he could be worse than the other Republicans. Hillary as a Democrat has fallen below the threshold where I can't hold my nose anymore. We may lose an election, but we are fighting and then I ideological war against conservatives ( that spans multiple election cycles) . And an avalanche of Democrats started migrating green, it would either change the Democratic Party from within, or the green party would start to become a viable party.

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