The IRS is Going to Monitor Churches

I personally think this is a victory for the secular world. Some however, disagree.

There’s an article at Investors Business Daily discussing the recent settlement between the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) where the IRS agrees to monitor churches to ensure they are obeying the law.

The law I’m referring to is the Johnson Amendment of 1954 which basically states that churches should stay out of politics to retain their tax-exempt status.

The author of the article gets it wrong. The author discusses the First Amendment to the Constitution,

Congress can make no laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion.

I don’t think that’s what the FFRF is arguing though. What they’re arguing is that there are some churches that regularly try to influence the voting habits of their congregations. How do they do this? Well, we all know of examples of churches inviting certain candidates to speak. We all know that churches will sermonize against some legislation that goes against their beliefs. This behavior has been going on for years and it’s time to stop it.

I wouldn’t have a problem with churches inviting candidates for office to speak if they invited all candidates running for a particular office. They don’t. They invite the one that they’d prefer you vote for when you cast your ballot.

I think the author chooses badly, when mentioning freedom of religion and then he goes on to strawman when comparing this agreement to the non-monitoring of mosques for speech that might lead to terrorism.

The author also gets it wrong that churches can’t speak out about gay marriage or contraception. If it’s against their religious beliefs, they absolutely can speak. They just won’t be able to use those topics politically.

This is a great outcome. I hope the IRS actually follows through. We all need to monitor the IRS to make sure they do as they agreed.

I believe that if churches want to be political, they should be able to be political. Just give up your tax exempt status. Why should religion be any different than the rest of us?

5 thoughts on “The IRS is Going to Monitor Churches

  1. “I wouldn’t have a problem with churches inviting candidates for office to speak if they invited all candidates running for a particular office.”

    I would have a problem with this. Not on constitutional grounds. This may be constitutionally permissable. But even if it is I don’t think it would be a good idea for churches to do this. Even this kind of mixing of church and politics makes me very uncomfortable.

    • I thought about deleting that line, but then I’d be dishonest. As long as a religious institution is not promoting a particular political ideology, it would be okay with me.

  2. I am not so concerned with the church promoting a particular political ideology by inviting politicians to speak, though this would likely happen on occasion. I am more concerned about the influence of this practice on the political practices of the candidates and the political process as they pander to the church audiences. We already have too much of this pandering to religion in our politics. We don’t need to create circumstances that will likely increase it.

  3. I am all for ending their tax exemption. But I don’t think doing this will resolve the concerns I expressed. Politicians pandering to religious groups poses to great a risk of religion becoming even more entwined in our politics than it is currently the case. I know that one should be careful of arguing slippery slopes. But I sincerely think there is one here. Politics and religion is a toxic combination. The more they interact, the more they are likely to coop and corrupt one another. And I suspect there will be a lopsided influence, with religion doing most of the cooping and corrupting. I am in favor of keeping as much distance between the two as possible. I’d prefer a planetary scale distance of separation between them. Allowing churches, and religion in general, to engage in even more politicking is a dangerous idea.

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