Tuesday, November 22, 2005

All Saints Redux

On November 8, I blogged on the IRS letter my church received for Preaching Peace just before the November,2004 election. Here it is, over two weeks after the current rector announced the receipt of the IRS letter threatening to lift the church's tax exempt status, and the news is still percolating across the nation. This may constitute a record for media attention span not involving missing white women.

Today, the NY Times printed an editorial which points out some facts I had failed to mention in my earlier post.

Shortly before the last election, a former rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif., gave a fiery antipoverty and antiwar sermon. He did not endorse a presidential candidate, but he criticized President Bush's policies in Iraq and at home. Now the Internal Revenue Service has challenged the church's tax-exempt status. It's important to know just how the tax police have chosen this church - and other congregations - to pursue after an election that energized churchgoers of most denominations.

I.R.S. officials have said about 20 churches are being investigated for activities across the political spectrum that could jeopardize their tax status. The agency is barred by law from revealing which churches, but officials have said these targets were chosen by a team of civil servants, not political appointees, at the Treasury Department. The I.R.S. argues that freedom of religion does not grant freedom from taxes if churches engage in politics.

That should mean that the 2004 presidential campaign would be an extremely fertile field. While some churches allowed Democrats to speak from the pulpit, the conservative Christians last year mounted an especially intense - and successful - drive to keep President Bush in office. Some issued voter guides that pointedly showed how their own religion was allied with Mr. Bush's views. Several Roman Catholic bishops even suggested that a vote for John Kerry would be a mortal sin. Since the election, Republicans have held two openly political nationally televised revival meetings at churches to support Mr. Bush's judicial nominations.

... With the feverish courting of religious voters these days, the I.R.S. does have the daunting task of separating politics from church policy. Still, it would seem to be hard to justify picking on a church that has a long record of opposition to wars waged by leaders from both parties.
[Emphasis added]

I think what bothers the IRS and other governmental agencies is that there are some churches that go beyond Sunday morning with their messages and calls to action. I also think that the IRS and other governmental entities confuse prophetic critiques with partisan politics. Whatever.

What I want to know is how many of the twenty churches currently under investigation overtly came out in favor of George Bush. I want to know whether the churches that hosted the two "revival meetings" in support of Bush's judicial nominations are among those twenty churches. All Saints openly announced the news. How many of those twenty churches did so? All Saints refused to settle with the IRS by admitting wrong-doing. How many of those twenty churches also did so?

I don't imagine I will get much in the way of answers to my questions.


Blogger One Salient Oversight said...

Albert Mohler, a conservative evangelical and high-up member of James Dobson's Focus on the Family, has posted today about this very issue. He actually supports your church's right to say what it wanted to say. He certainly thinks that, in this case, the IRS has no right at all to investigate.


3:40 PM  
Blogger Elmo said...

I bet there are a lot more than 20 on the list...Roman Catholics too.

8:57 PM  

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