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Bush, Churches And The IRS

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You remember that a major part of Bush’s election and re-election successes was the Religious Right, right?

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.

Yea, verily:

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?

Write your Senators and House Representative and tell them you think this stinks.


Edited: nd

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  • Nancy

    This is just the latest point sticking out of the iceburg-al mass that is the corruption of the Bush administration. They tried to sic the IRS on the NAACP, too, remember, because the NAACP wouldn’t back Dubya. Maybe Dubya should change his name to Adolf.

  • David

    Whether or not the Bush admin was behind the IRS actions, certainly the consistency of IRS needs to be evaluated regarding the religious right’s endorsements of Bush.

    Well let’s see if the IRS goes after these church bishops:

    FOX News: President Bush’s Methodist Church Bishops Repent Iraq War Complicity

    95 bishops from President Bush’s church said they repent their “complicity” in the “unjust and immoral” invasion and occupation of Iraq. “In the face of the United States administration’s rush toward military action based on misleading information, too many of us were silent,” said a statement of conscience signed by more than half of the 164 retired and active United Methodist bishops worldwide. President Bush is a member of the United Methodist Church. “We would have made the statement regardless of who the president was. It was not meant to be either partisan or to single out any one person,” Carder said. “It was the recognition that we are all part of the decision and we are all part of a democratic society. We all bear responsibility.” Going to war over the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks did not solve the real problems behind them. Americans need to take responsibility for their world, Stith said. “To ignore things and to assume that persons in the government have all knowledge is to reject our franchise and our democracy,” Stith said. In their statement, the bishops pledged to pray daily for the end of the war, for its American and Iraqi victims and for American leaders to find “truth, humility and policies of peace through justice.” “We confess our preoccupation with institutional enhancement and limited agendas while American men and women are sent to Iraq to kill and be killed, while thousands of Iraqi people needlessly suffer and die, while poverty increases and preventable diseases go untreated,” the statement said. “The only solution seems to be to stay the course. But if you’re on the wrong course, you don’t stay the course,” Carder said. “At the heart of the Christian faith is the willingness to acknowledge mistakes.”

  • Nancy

    I bet they won’t. Bet nothing happens whatsoever. Why? Because BushCo, being bullies & chickenhawks (i.e. cowards) only goes after small, helpless targets, like a single church. Not a coalition of bishops from an entire major Protestant denomination. Modus operandi W.

  • I’ve argued for years that Churches should not be completely exempt from taxation. There comes a point in time where Americans are going to have to wake up. The religious right succeeds because it badgers its followers into adhering to the Bible’s call for 10% tithing. It threatens, cajoles and downright frightens the poor mindless folk into dipping into their wallets time and time again for “the Glory of God”. Hallelujah! In the old days, the Roman Church did the same thing by selling indulgences to Purgatory. Folks, if God needed the cash, He/She would have an ATM at every Church that went straight to Wells-Fargo, Heaven’s Branch. There’s nothing wrong with tithing to a Church or religious group provided that the funds actually do carry out the Lord’s Work. The problem here is that those on the far right have distorted the definition so much that they forgot Christ’s central message.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    The concept of the “ma’asér” (tithe) originated in the Torah as a method for supporting the Levites and priestly class, and for supporting the poor and orphaned. Christian churches have taken the tithe and changed it around, like they have done with many other Jewish concepts, to fit their own needs.

    When American taxation was not built around taxing consumption and income, this was not such an important issue. But since religious institutions do consume and do earn income, it is suddenly a rather important point, and suddenly a rather important stick to be used by politicised civil servants who wish to push around non-conforming pastors.

    Speaking from my roost here in Armon haNetziv, where I see a terribly corrupt nation all around me, where the law is selctively applied, it is my perception that bullying a church for not kowtowing to the presidential line is just another form of corruption.

    Whether churches and other religious institutions should be tax exempt at all is a different question, to be addressed in a different article.

  • Thanks for the Fox News link, David.

  • noanchorbabies

    The answer is simple. Get rid of the fucking IRS. That will restore First Amendment freedom of speech rights to everyone. Any organization, religious or otherwise will then be free to come fully out into the open and explicitly endorse or denounce any candidate or political party they choose.

    Of course such a move would probably be opposed by folks like Reverend Bacon, because that would be the ultimate tax cut for the rich (along with everyone else), and it is clear that he thinks Jesus, the candidate of “peace” is in favor of using the power of the government’s gun to redistribute wealth “for the alleviation of poverty.” What he doesn’t understand is that immoral forced government charity drives out genuine individual charity, by leaving nothing in the average middle class person’s pocket with which he could otherwise display the gospel of generosity toward the poor.

  • Out of the mouths of babes…

    And a nice consumption tax wouldn’t be able to tell if your money belonged to God, Satan or just some nice secular folks.


  • Thanks for the article … and I have heard/read about other churches being targeted by the IRS in the last year or two, but I don’t recall details.

    RE ridding us of the IRS … I think we would first have to rid ourselves of income taxes. With a consumption tax, we’d shift the burden of collecting and paying to retail businesses. Don’t know how much (if any?) they get to charge for collecting state sales taxes …

  • Nancy

    But then you get into the problem of the sales or use taxes being disproportionately hard on the poor. It won’t cause a millionaire to turn a hair to have to pay 20% on a lunchtime hamburger; but for the guy (or more likely, woman) having to fork out an additional 20% on her McGreaseburger, on a fixed income or minimum wage – the impact is far greater on her than it is on our overprivileged millionaire, even if her burger is a lot cheaper than his.

  • Almost all consumption taxes exempt food and other essentials from the tax and include things like national sales tax holidays to expand the exemption to things like school supplies and clothes for short periods of time. So their impact on the poor is pretty minimal.

    And I sure like the idea of a sales tax on those who are selling God.


  • Nancy

    If that’s the case, then I could support it, as long as they don’t start ‘extending’ food exemptions to include stuff like liquor. In fact, I’d even be happy to see such a tax slapped on junk food like chips & soda. However, I’m familiar with a few state taxes – I think Tennessee is one, but I may be wrong – where the sales tax applies to EVERYTHING, whether it’s an apple or an Apple.