HR 235 seeks to amend the IRS tax code to permit clergymen to endorse political candidates from their religious podiums, and still maintain a tax exemption.
Much as the religious extremists would like to believe that there is no separation of church and state, this country was not founded on a theocracy nor ought it to become one.
Is it that churches truly have no freedom of speech? No. Public charities, including creating 501(c)(4) organizations to engage in advocacy activies. As the article referenced here says, passing this bill would give churches more than other 501(c)(4) organizations and rather than pass the bill, it's a matter that churches should be educated on thier rights.
The Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act (H.R. 235) would allow religious organizations to engage in electioneering including supporting or opposing candidates for public office without losing their tax-exempt status. Current tax law prohibits all 501(c)(3)s from attempting to influence elections.
Supporters of the bill claim that it is needed becasue religious groups are afraid to comment on issues of concern for fear of losing their tax exempt status. What these groups need is to be educated on the current law which allows them to engage in advocacy activities including lobbying without endangering their tax status.
This bill would allow churches to engage in activities prohibitied to other 501(c)(3)s, which would be harmful to the nonprofit sector. Letters are needed to let Congress know that the nonprofit sector does not support this bill.
We are reminded of the dangers of clergy meddling in political affairs with this article. Given that the Internal Revenue Tax Code section 501(c)(3) says that under penalty of prosecution and the forfeiture of a tax-exempt status, churches and some religious organizations must "abstain from participating or intervening, directly or indirectly, in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office." "Issue discussions" completely separate from political candidates are permitted so long as specific issues are not linked to particular candidates who hold certain positions.
According to news media reports, the Rev. Chan Chandler of East Waynesville Baptist Church in Haywood County told members that they must vote for President George W. Bush. Nine members who did not do so have since been told to leave the congregation. An additional 40 members have reportedly left in protest.
“This is an outrage,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Houses of worship exist to bring people together for worship, not split them apart over partisan politics.
“I think there is an important lesson here for the whole country,” Lynn continued. “Americans do not expect to be ordered to vote for certain candidates by their religious leaders.”
Religious Right groups have been pressing evangelical churches to get deeply involved in partisan politics, Lynn said, and this kind of controversy is the natural outcome.
Seems that this church needs to be turned in to the IRS, for breaking the law. Nice example.