Besides big-dog Christian leaders like James [whomp your kids] Dobson, Jerry [Teletubby] Falwell and Pat [anybody know an assassin?] Robertson with their mega-media audiences, pastors at churches across the country roused their flocks and got them to the polls to vote for George W. Bush.
But one man on one day in one church in California gave a sermon which did not back Bush.
And thus it came to pass that the Internal Revenue Service started an investigation, threatening the tax-exempt status of the church.
‘Antiwar Sermon Brings IRS Warning
‘On June 9, [All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena] received a letter from the IRS stating that "a reasonable belief exists that you may not be tax exempt as a church …"
‘The letter went on to say that "our concerns are based on a Nov. 1, 2004, newspaper article in the Los Angeles Times and a sermon presented at the All Saints Church discussed in the article."’ [LA Times 11/07/2005] (Story links open in new windows)
So nobody at the IRS had even heard the sermon (the smell of brimstone would have given them away) – they only read about it, but decided to go after the church!
The church is not going to turn the other cheek on this, because it’s too important:
‘California Church Vows to Fight IRS Investigation of Sermon
‘"There’s much more at stake than All Saints in this " investigation, said [Rector J. Edward] Bacon. "I think it’s a defining moment about religious freedom in the United States."
‘Bacon said the IRS asked for supporting documents in its letter, which the church provided. Then the agency offered a deal: if the church would say it violated the regulations and promise to comply in the future, the IRS would drop its investigation.
‘ The church replied that it had not broken any regulations.’ [Beliefnet.com 11/08/2005]
The Rev. Dr. George Regas gave his position on this issue in an editorial on November 9:
‘The won’t-be-bullied pulpit
‘I gave the sermon on the Sunday before the presidential election. It was called, "If Jesus Debated Sen. Kerry and President Bush." In it, I took great care to say that I did not want to tell people how to vote, but that I was challenging them to go into the voting booth on Tuesday taking with them all that they knew about Jesus, the peacemaker. To take all that Jesus meant to them and then vote their deepest values.
‘…I had criticized the drive to develop more nuclear weapons and described tax cuts that benefited the rich as "inimical to the values of Jesus." Based on that, the IRS made a subjective determination that the sermon implicitly opposed one candidate and endorsed another.
‘It seems to me that fundamentally moral issues, such as peace and the alleviation of poverty, are indisputably the province of church pulpits, regardless of which politicians are debating that week or where a Sunday happens to fall in an election cycle.’ [LA Times OpEd 11/09/2005]
Reverend Bacon wrapped it all up in a sermon yesterday:
‘The IRS is arguing that they can investigate a church based on a field officer’s subjective determination that a preacher’s sermon implicitly opposes or endorses candidates, regardless of the explicit statements of the preacher.
An evangelical Christian radio show host told me during an interview Friday, "Pastor, if they are coming for you now, they will be coming for us next."’ [The IRS Goes to Church 11/13/2005]
So does anyone else think this is typical of the intimidation this administration is famous for, and that once again it has crossed the line?
And do you think that this is what government should be used for? Is it really supposed to be an instrument of the party in power to keep itself in power? Does that bring a whiff of Il Duce into the room?
And why is nobody on the Religious Right being investigated for their thinly veiled but glaringly obvious endorsements of George W. Bush?