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October 8th, 2012
02:20 PM ET

Pastor heralds success of endorsing from the pulpit, challenging IRS

By Dan Merica, CNN

In a sermon that likely broke the law, Indiana pastor Ron Johnson told his 400 congregants Sunday that for those who believe in the Bible, the decision to vote against President Barack Obama “is a no-brainer.”

“For Christian people who believe the Bible is the inspired world of God, it is not rocket science,” Johnson told CNN after his sermon.

Johnson’s anti-Obama sermonizing likely violated the so-called Johnson Amendment, an Internal Revenue Service rule that forbids churches that receive tax-exempt status from the federal government to intervene in “any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

But Johnson appears comfortable with defying the IRS. His sermon was part of a national campaign by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal organization that has organized Pulpit Freedom Sunday since 2008, encouraging pastors to flout the Johnson Amendment with political endorsements from the pulpit.

Alliance Defending Freedom said that more 1,500 other pastors across the United States participated Sunday. The goal: to force the IRS to come down on these churches so the organization, whose network includes 2,200 attorneys, can test the Johnson Amendment’s constitutionality.

“The IRS has the ability and the authority to regulate their sermons. We are giving them the opportunity to do that, and if they challenge that, we will challenge that in court,” said Erik Stanley, Alliance Defending Freedom's senior legal counsel. “It is all about creating a test case to find the Johnson Amendment as unconstitutional.”

With less than a month until the presidential election, what was said at this year’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday could hold more sway than in previous years.

Critics say the movement is a Republican front dressed up as an exercise in religious freedom, an allegation the event organizer rejects.

“The ADF wants to elect the next president. They want to elect Mitt Romney,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “This is not about some principle.”

Johnson denies that, noting on Sunday he did not endorse Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, but instead urged his congregation to vote against Obama, whose policies he called “un-American.”

He said the speech received a number of standing ovations.

When CNN asked to be put in touch with a church that plans to endorse the president, representatives from the organization said they don’t screen whom the churches plan to endorse.

The Alliance Defending Freedom has ties to other conservative Christian groups such as the American Family Association and Focus on the Family.

“I think there is a possibility that in some of these mega-churches, a pastor's saying it is OK to vote for Mitt Romney … could increase voter turnout,” Lynn said.

So far, the effort has received little to no response from the IRS.

The IRS did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Many of the sermons from Sunday will be sent to the nation’s tax collection agency, a move that organizers hope will make it easy for the IRS to come down on the churches. According to Stanley, the majority of the messages in past years have gone unnoticed, and only a handful of pastors receive letters, some of which threaten to revoke the churches' tax-exempt status.

This nonenforcement by the IRS has emboldened some pastors and the Alliance Defending Freedom, said Lynn of Americans United. According to pastors who have participated in the past, the fact the IRS rarely if ever comes down on these churches encourages them to keep endorsing.

Stanley and the Alliance Defending Freedom theorize that the IRS doesn’t want to be challenged in court and that the agency may be disorganized.

But the lack of enforcement stems from bureaucratic uncertainty about what rank an IRS official must be to initiate an investigation, Lynn said.

In the past, the IRS has investigated churches that it suspected of violating the Johnson Amendment.

Four days before the 1992 presidential election, the Landmark Church in Binghamton, New York, ran a full-page ad in USA Today that said, "Christians Beware," followed by a list of Bill Clinton's positions on homosexuality, abortion and the distribution of condoms. At the bottom, the church asked for donations to help pay for the ad.

According to Lynn, Americans United filed a complaint, and the church lost its tax-exempt status in 1995.

Landmark Church pastor Dan Little took the IRS to court, arguing the agency was violating the church's First Amendment rights and the agency was only able to revoke the tax-exempt status of a "religious organization," not an actual church.

Both a U.S. District Court judge and a federal appeals court rejected those arguments.

Johnson, the Indiana pastor, laughs when asked about those who question whether a pastor should be allowed to endorse from the pulpit.

“Pastors understand the so-called separation of church and state, as it is currently understood. We understand how marginalized we are becoming,” Johnson said. “We are supposed to be part of the community discussion about issues that matter.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Christianity • Mitt Romney • Politics

soundoff (581 Responses)
  1. correctlycenter

    The lie of evolution pt. II
    Evolution begins and ends with a hopelessly illogical premise: Nothing + chance = everything?
    What created the matter and energy necessary to create the big-bang? The evolutionist has NO scientific evidence, so he/she says, "You must assume by FAITH that somehow it occurred." REALLY?
    The false theory of evolution says that some 3.5 billion years ago there was a large inorganic soup of nitrogen, ammonia, salts, and carbon dioxide that was bubbling away and magically appeared a single cell alga. Evolution propagandists have no SCIENTIFIC answer where this bubling mix of elements came from. But THEY know better than God...

    October 8, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Okay I now call complete poe. Trying to refute evolution with cosomology is just plain fucking retarded.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • You really are stupid

      "Evolution begins and ends with a hopelessly illogical premise: Nothing + chance = everything?"

      That's like saying the theory of gravity is illogical because it doesn't predict cats

      October 8, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • John

      Evolution is illogical but Biblical passages are?

      October 8, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • John

      Evolution is illogical to the left side of the bell curve.

      October 8, 2012 at 11:35 pm |
  2. Good News Volunteer

    Anyone that truly believes in what the scriptures teach with regards to God's Kingdom absolutely stays out of politics entirely resting faith and hope in what that government accomplish in the very near future. Inviting persecution and oppression by satisfying a political agenda provides ample proof these church leaders are not backed by God. 2 Timothy 3:5 – 'having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power' (New English Version)

    October 8, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Logos Aletheia

      I'm sorry, GNV – but a key reason that America is presently in its current mess is that Christians and other people of faith and good moral values have taken your position to stay out of politics. This is totally absolutely 100 percent wrong and incorrect. Christians are called to be both salt and light, to be IN the world, but not OF the world. When you as a Christian (which by your comments I assume you probably are) refuse to be IN the world to let your salt and light have the effect that the Lord Jesus intends that salt and light to have because it is a messy confrontation, you are refusing to take up your place of calling to be salt and light, to be part of the spiritual warfare between good and evil. And when you sit on the sidelines just waiting for "persecution" to come - well, that is just plain stupid - like sitting in the median of a busy highway and refusing to move because you might get hit crossing the street.

      People need to wake up, communicate the truth, take action, be salt and light. No way did Jesus sit in a monastery up on a mountain top instead of actively confronting immorality, wickedness, evil and sin in His world and working to heal and counsel despairing, hurting, needy individuals. You need to follow In His Steps and get into the fight.

      October 9, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  3. Sam Yaza

    if America allows this, i demand never to pay taxes, it is against my religion,

    Lilith says; Do nothing to assist in the construction of the one thousand year kingdom of Zion, but prevent its construction. for when the kingdom is realized all children shall be thrown in to darkness for 1000 years.

    so i cant pay taxes if my tax money goes to Christianity

    October 8, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • nope

      @sam...
      nope

      October 8, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      last time you got close to the 1000 year kingdom it was called the "Dark ages"

      October 8, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • snopes says

      nope to nope

      October 8, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  4. correctlycenter

    The lie of evolution:
    The tragedy is that evolution is a 19th century philosophy that has been destroyed by 21st century science. Yet the lie continues to be perpetrated, not on scientific grounds, but because it is what morally justifies our immoral society today. An evolutionist will secretly think; as long I believe I am nothing but an animal, I can live anyway I choose. But as soon as I admit there is an Intelligent Designer, then I become morally responsible to that Creator and they also realize they are now accountable to God!

    October 8, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Evidence for your ridiculous assertion on evolution?

      October 8, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • nope

      @haw...
      nope

      October 8, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Blessed Are the Cheesmakers

      Ummmm, your Bronze Age religious philosophy is being destroyed by science piece by piece, which is why you nuts keep claim it is a lie.

      On the other hand there is no reason to think there was an intelligent designer, and certainly not the Christian god.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • nope

      @bles...
      nope

      October 8, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Are you really that stupid?

      "The tragedy is that evolution is a 19th century philosophy that has been destroyed by 21st century science."

      Please post your evidence. Please! I need a good laugh

      October 8, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  5. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    October 8, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • JM

      Yeah, pray for Obama. He could use it (dealing with the lies flying from Romney, etc.)

      The Bible does say to pray for your leaders.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • truth be told

      Poor leadership is Gods curse on a nation.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • JM

      Bush and Romney? Death of a nation by stupidity.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
    • truth be told

      And obama

      October 8, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things" and "truth be told", but all of your assertions to date have been unfounded. The degree to which your assertions may represent truths is 0.0. To help you understand the degree to which your assertions may represent truths, I will access my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE). Using my IEE module, the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book might help you overcome this problem:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
      by the Alzheimer's Disease Society

      October 8, 2012 at 8:29 pm |
    • Billy Jack is healthy for children and other living things

      Takes more than prayer to change things..."Faith without works is dead" –James 2:26

      I know this is a lost cause, but please stop saying prayer changes things about every story posted on here and and ask yourself what would Billy Jack do? Then do it if you really want to change something!

      October 9, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
  6. UncleJohn

    Strip them of their tax free status and refuse to consider the matter in the courts.

    October 8, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • nope

      @un...
      nope

      October 8, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      Think of the impact on the deficit from just the Catholic Church and the Mormons....

      October 8, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • smitvict

      Totally agree. If you want to preach politics, do it, without your tax exempt status.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • nope

      @smit...
      nope

      October 8, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • snopes says

      nope to nope

      October 8, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  7. correctlycenter

    God already did! Look at yourself, the moon, stars, planets. Genesis chapter 1 reveals this. God created everything...

    October 8, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      A worthless non-answer from a troll that can't even use the reply function.

      October 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm |
    • 13monkees

      And yet chapter two tells a different story of creation. They disagree on when man was created, what day animals were created and several other things.

      October 8, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
    • nope

      @13...
      nope

      October 8, 2012 at 8:07 pm |
    • snopes says

      nope to nope

      October 8, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  8. JM

    For those who believe in the Bible, everything that Romney stands for is completely the opposite of Jesus's teaching. The man is greedy, he lies like the devil, could care less for the poor, is hording his wealth...

    Jesus told his followers to give away everything that they had to the poor. Jesus praised the meek and the poor (and condemned the rich, hypocrites, those w/o compassion, those who did not help the less fortunate and said that they were following their father, the devil).

    Hello. Read the Bible.

    Insane.

    October 8, 2012 at 7:54 pm |
    • Fred

      My personal opinion is that both of the candidates are losers.
      I don't support either one, but I'd vote for Bozo the Clown before I'd cast a ballot for Obama.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • JM

      Yeah, you're probably right. Obama should probably have just let the country go under and let bin Ladin go free (like Bush).

      October 8, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Fred

      "Let the country go under?" You sound like you think he's accomplished something.
      Bush didn't let Bin Laden go free. And by the way, O-bummo didn't get him, either.
      The Seals got Bin Laden and that was only after years of pursuit and in spite of the
      fact that the Pakistani government was hiding him.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
    • sally

      Aww poor fred is sad that ole Bushy couldn't get bin Laden and has to make up some spin to not credit Obama. That's OK, poor Rummy pirate won't have a chance to do anything but flunk big. Poor Rummy pirate. Awwww.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • sally

      And I mean flunk big – like not get elected. People too smart to let the Rummy pirate ship seal America away.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  9. correctlycenter

    Physical laws, intellect, scientific evidence, senses all come from God...

    October 8, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Prove it troll.

      October 8, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      Epic Failure!

      October 8, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • nope

      @thecoll...
      nope

      October 8, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • snopes says

      nope to nope

      October 8, 2012 at 8:23 pm |
    • TR6

      Well if you read the bible you might have noticed he didn't have anything good to say about the right to the pursuit of life, liberty or happiness. Disagreed pretty strongly with free speech and freedom of religion too

      October 8, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
  10. bob

    once churches can endorse a politician the end of freedom will follow. Science and Common sense will be a thing of the past
    we will be forced to believe lighting candles does magic and boats can carry 6 million animals. and we are the descendants of inbreeding. Next time you go to church think how positively moronic it is when the preiest comes walking down isle wearing robes holding a book over his head ( this is the year 2012 not 1492, people wake up!! )

    October 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      Well SAID!!!!

      October 8, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Fred

      What a hilarious post!
      You forgot the part about how the sky is falling.
      Talk about alarmist...
      Try rational thought. No, really, you'll thank me later.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      Fred, PLEASE Explain yourself...

      October 8, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @fred,

      yes, it is written in a hyperbolic manner, but there is truth there nevertheless.

      "Endorsement" is not about what a preacher says. I direct you to Matthew 7:15

      "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."

      "Endorsement" is about preachers (or operators of non-profits) redirecting donations to the charity to political campaigns at the discretion of the preacher (or operator).

      What "free speech" by tax-exempt organization means is tax-free campain donations. In other words "free money" for electioneering. If you think things are bad enough now with Super PACs, start making these donations tax-deductible and hold onto your hat.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • nope

      @bib
      nope

      October 8, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • snopes says

      nope to nope

      October 8, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  11. John Livingston

    So how does a true Christian eve endorse a Mormon for president. The follow a false Jesus in other words they are a cult. The Apostle Paul says in Galatians if an angel preach another Jesus let him be accursed. So how do you run behind such a person as a Christian.

    October 8, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      A cult is what the bigger religion calls the smaller.

      October 8, 2012 at 7:38 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      Here's a TRUTH for you, dude... they are all CULTS.... shock...

      October 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • nope

      @thecolle...
      nope

      October 8, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • snopes says

      nope to nope

      October 8, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
  12. correctlycenter

    I am not in favor of pastors endorsing candidates. The congregation should know what politicians present biblical/moral characteristics and godly governance. Churches are non-profit organizations and should not have to pay taxes...

    October 8, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • bob

      They should pay more taxes then any business !!!. they make profit off telling people fairy tales and produce NOTHING but legions of non thinking drones that think lighting candles and wearing robes means something

      October 8, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • Fred

      Poor, Bob.
      There he goes talking without knowing any facts about it.
      Online trolls troll.
      Do some research. See what churches do for their communities.
      They feed the hungry, clothe the poor, provide for orphans.
      What have you done lately?

      October 8, 2012 at 8:03 pm |
    • brooke

      @Fred- Yes religions can do SOME good, however, belief in the supernatural is not a necessity for doing good. I am an atheist, I work in a job that I will never get rich at but chose because I love it, and I spend my days helping disadvantaged children with behavioral and mental issues, I do volunteer at my local soup kitchen, and donate quite a bit to several non religious charities. So please don't spread the misinformation that only the religious do good, and guess what, I do good just because I want to help people, not because I believe that I will be rewarded in a fictional afterlife. Can you say that?

      October 8, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • Fred

      Brooke:
      as a matter of fact I can say that.
      I donate time and effort to worthy causes for no other reason that because it is right.
      Funny how these same opportunities I have are available to all, but atheists never show up to
      volunteer their time or money. Maybe they are not the do-gooders you'd like to think they are.

      October 9, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
  13. nojinx

    I am sure his customers won't mind covering the bill once it comes.

    October 8, 2012 at 6:39 pm |
  14. Mike K

    I hate churches. They are the Pharisees of Jesus' time. ".. but do not follow their practices. For they say one thing and do another!" My own pastor (I go to church because I have friends there; it is for social purposes), a conservative Methodist, has said from the pulpit that he himself believes churches have ruined more people's lives than he cares to think about. A friend of mine's son and daughter were molested by their church's Youth Pastor. Adultery between members, including pastors and church officials, is as rampant as it is in the business and social spheres.

    Churches can go sink the ocean for all of me.

    October 8, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • correctlycenter

      What about Christian churches who follow biblical principles and are obedient to God? Do you dislike them also? Believers are to congregate together not only to strenghen each other in faith, but also to give the LORD praise and worship...

      October 8, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • bob

      " Believers are to congregate together not only to strenghen each other in faith, but also to give the LORD praise and worship..."

      replace believers with moron's and read it again whats the difference

      Praise the lord lol really its laughable you do know the year is 2012 not 1492 ? the world is round and there is a thing
      called evolution ( in your case devolution )

      October 8, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Snow

      Every church is a "Christian church who follow biblical principles and are obedient to God" until their dirty laundry gets aired.. and if you believe that there is any organization christian or not that does not have dirty secrets, you are just deluding yourself

      "...to give the LORD praise and worship" Why? what's the need or point?

      October 8, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • 13monkees

      Which rules will you follow to be a "true Christian?" There are over 30,000 varients of Christianity. Don't you think a "loving god" would have made it much more clear to his followers exactly how they were to behave? I mean, with heaven and hell in the balance you would think he would take special care to make sure people got the right message. This clearly didn't happen. I don't ask for much, just the same evidence that was presented to Moses. He did it for him, he can do it for me.

      October 8, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • Fred

      Poor Bob.
      He's still frothing at the mouth. Did you forget your meds today?
      There are bad people everywhere. Read about the bad things that happen at
      schools and universities. Does that mean you want to close them down?
      Get over yourself, dude.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  15. afopto

    As a pastor, I find there are far more important spiritual issues within the lives of my congregation than me telling them who not to vote for. Frankly, engaging politically from the pupit is lazy homeletics. Pandering for a few "standing ovations" is tickling the ears of those who listen.

    October 8, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
    • afopto

      Sorry for the misspelled "homiletics"

      October 8, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Ears The Deal

      *All* preaching is mere ear tickling.

      October 8, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  16. The Bird Is The Word

    So, why don't the churches just pay their taxes like everybody else? Why should they get special treatment?

    October 8, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
    • nojinx

      Well, it is because...uh...well, err...hmm. Let me get back to you.

      October 8, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
    • hawkechik

      Because supposedly they are non-profit organizations. Supposedly.

      October 8, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • bob

      no profit my a$$ look at mega-churches, the popes GOLD magical staff could feed a small country with what that is worth.

      October 8, 2012 at 7:49 pm |
  17. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:->>>>>>

    Putting the final kibosh on religion and therefore "pink slipping" the topic pastors:

    • There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    A quick Google, Bing or Yahoo search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    October 8, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • correctlycenter

      Who created the heavens and the earth and all living things on it, Richard Dawkins? Get real. God certainly does exist, read His word in the holy bible...

      October 8, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
    • Clyde

      There goes three thousand years of thought. Who needs history or philosophy, the combox prophet has spoken!

      October 8, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
    • Joe from CT, not Lieberman

      C'mon, folks, give him a break. That's Reality's shortest comment in months!

      October 8, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Fred

      Nice try, but EPIC FAIL.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • 13monkees

      @correctlycenter – Please tell me you are joking. Do you seriously believe that by asserting a magical explanation of how the universe got here wins? If it's that easy to explain the universe's origin then I assert that a giant pixie did it. Prove me wrong.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • That explains everything

      Correctlycenter Get real. God certainly does exist, read His word in the holy bible...

      If your god exists he is war criminal and a pervert. Of course when you see what his priests get up
      To…. Oh… that would explain everything!

      October 8, 2012 at 9:52 pm |
  18. Tatiana Covington

    Don't like what you hear? Don't listen to it!

    October 8, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Mike K

      Tatiana, for many topics, that's good advice. When it comes to a topic whose implications - especially the nomination of supreme court justices - affect each one of us in profound ways, we can't merely tune it out.

      October 8, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  19. Bill Deacon

    The U.S. Supreme Court stated in Lemon v. Kurtzman in 1971 that non-taxation of churches is undergirded by “more than 200 years of virtually universal practice imbedded in our colonial experience and continuing into the present.” Here is why: There is a distinction between constiitutionally separate “sovereigns.” For one sovereign entiity to tax another leaves the taxed one subservient to that authority. This is true both in the symbolic statement of paying the tax and in the practical effect of supporting the sovereign party. So, in our constiitutional structure, states may not tax each other, and they may not tax property of the federal government. The District of Columbia does not tax the property owned by foreign governments, and New York does not tax the property owned by the United Nations.

    So, too, churches in America are not subservient to the government. The First Amendment to the Constiitution requires that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The Constiitution prevents the government from wielding its authority to control churches. Churches in this way differ from all other businesses and organizations. They are a unique instiitution whose existence is not derived from government authority, nor even from governmental acknowledgment. Churches preceded the birth of our nation and will remain long after its death. They transcend geographic and ethnic boundaries.

    October 8, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      That's stupid, Bill. A church must follow the same laws as anyone else. Do you think that they can just go murder anyone in their congregation and claim separation of church and state?

      October 8, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Bill,

      Actually the IRS doesn't see the churches as unique. It treats them exactly the same way as other charitable organizations that are not operated on a 'for profit' basis.

      Generally speaking, I agree with the tax-exemption for churches as non-profits – particularly where they genuinely behave like non-profits, turning the charitable donations that exceed operating costs into works that benefit the community. This is obviously laudable. Perhaps less laudable but still understandable is community outreach including missionary work.

      It gets murky where donations are used to influence the legislative process or pure uninhibited extrav@gances – like a personal fleet of aircraft for televangelists. Despite such excesses, so long as tax-exempt donations for churches cannot be used to fund political campaigns I don't see it as a problem.

      October 8, 2012 at 7:28 pm |
    • Fred

      Any time I see or hear anything about taxing churches I am reminded of the movie Foul Play
      with Chevy Chase and Goldie Hawn.
      Remember, the bad guys in that movie were in favor of taxing churches.

      October 8, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
  20. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    Let's remember this really has nothing to do with what pastors say from their pulpit (and frankly I really don't care what they say.) This is not about free speech, this is about campaign financing.

    The law says they cannot endorse a specific candidate. But that already doesn't stop them saying "Bob here has been a giving, caring member of our church for 20 years and he's running for office in the State House." or "Mitt Romney is a good man and believes in the same values our church does." ... "You might want to think about that on Tuesday." Et cetera. There are any number of ways preachers can and do get their electioneering message across without specifically contravening the tax code.

    This is about repealing a section of the tax code that would essentially permit tax deductible gifts to politicians. You can't even do that with Super PACs today.

    Speech = money. (Thank you Citizens' United.) The ability to endorse candidates by charites (churches *AND* non-profits) means the ability to divert tax-deductible gifts from charity work to political campaigns at the discretion of the pastor/operator of the non-profit.

    Challenging this section on the tax code on behalf of churches and non-profits opens the door to tax-deductible campaign donations. If the current situation with money buying elections isn't bad enough this would let people do so "TAX FREE".

    The IRS should ignore this – like it has for the past four years.

    October 8, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.