IRS Threatens Church for Anti-War Sermon

Churchs have been preaching against war for hundreds if not thousands of years. It is part and parcel of the message of Christ. How can the government demand that a church muzzle its historic moral position just because it opposes the postion of the President?

What limits should the government place on the speech of tax-exempt organizations like churches? At what point does a sermon against war become political speech? Should the government silence any moral opposition to administration postions on this basis? Should sanctions be levied against churches that preach support for the war?

Have similar warning been issued to Falwell, Roberson, Dobson, et. al., by the IRS?

Why am I so sure the answer to that question is “no”?

While I am in favor of revoking tax exempt status for churches this reeks of a political motivated move. From the facts stated in the article I don’t think there is anyway that this will withstand scrutiny.

If this is selective enforecement, like if they aren’t also threatening to remove tax exempt status from churches preaching against gay marriage, then there’s a problem in my book.

Perhaps somebody with more knowledge than me on the rules of tax exemption can clarify those rules a bit. Where is the line drawn regarding politics? Is it simply taking a stance on an issue that is forbidden, or is it only supporting candidates? What happens when an issue is preached about in a church, before it is a political issue, but then a politician brings it up? Do all preachers have to then stop talking about it?

I doubt there can be a satisifying line drawn here.

Well not war so to speak, but Jesus did get PO’ed about the whole money changer issue and arguabley broke their things.

Anyhoo, there are ways to preach against war w/o being political. (and I love using anyhoo as it PO’ed some of your dopers :p)

I am not a specialist in tax law, but this was one reason why my religious group decided ultimately to not incorporate as a nfp “church”. The area was too fuzzy for us to be happy with. What it seemed to say was that you could preach against war in general, but the second you bring up a concrete example connected with a name or administration, you’re in violation.

Similarly, I could (wouldn’t, but could) preach that gay marriage is ruining our society, but if I say John Smith, the mayor of our town, is ruining society by allowing gay marriage, I’m in violation. OTOH, I also can’t say Jane Doe is a good mayoral candidate because she’s against gay marriage.

Be vague and general (and useless), then you’re OK. Give actual information that your congregation can use to make good decisions in life, and you’re no longer an approved church.

From the bit I’ve read about the case, I agree with the IRS: preaching against a specific politician’s war on the eve of an election just smacks of using the pulpit to advance political candidacies, to me, and that’s against the rules.

However, I’m for this, IF the rules are applied widely and consistently. This sort of thing is epidemic in churches, from what I can tell; if this church loses its tax-exempt status, I want to see thousands of churches facing similar penalties.

I don’t think churches ought to be tax-exempt just by virtue of being a church, anyway. Let them follow the same rules for charities if they want exemption: by their works shall you know them.


I think this move by the IRS is foolish, and destined to go nowhere.

But people on this very board have advocated churches losing their tax-exempt status after those churches PROMOTED the policies of the President or of the GOP.

Where was your outrage then?

First off, yes, some conservative churches have gotten in trouble with the IRS for taking overly political positions- Americans United was even trolling for people to report on them. Then, AU also swiped at some liberal churches which were doing the same.

I bet the IRS probably didn’t do this on its own but as a response to a complaint filed by some @$$.

I’m for total political free speech by all churches, as well as abolition or severe pruning of the IRS.

Who does “your” refer to in this quote?



One of the news sites CNN or BBC (forget which) stated that a church in Bingahmaton NY in 1992 lost its tax-free status after bashing Clinton in a sermon before the election.

So it’s a not just a “bad Republicans in power” issue, people.

I thought that there was no special tax exemption for churches, and it was the same rules as for a non-profit or charity. This assumption is incorrect?

Do you really find it so unbelieveable that what I said is correct? I can certainly find links to support my assertion, if you are really, in good faith, thinking that I am mistaken.

But if you’re asking just for the hell of it, because that’s what people do to derail an argument here in GD, then I’d ask you to reconsider.

So - are you seriously, in good faith, thinking that what I said never happened?

Where’s the outrage now? I don’t see any. I do see people calmly discussing the issue, however.

Do I think that nowhere on this board someone advocated that position? No, but I think you might be exaggerating the extent that that position was advocated. In fact, I’d say after only 7 posts you jumped the gun quite a bit.

I’ll be glad to see the one church lose tax exempt if all the others lose theirs as well. But suspicious and cynical guy that I am, I just don’t think that’s gonna happen. Do YOU think that will happen, friend Bricker?

I personally think we should get rid of all tax exempt status for all churches and just let them say whatever the hell they want.

Having said that, this sounds like a pretty selective enforcement and not a very justified one. There is a difference between being opposed to war and advocating for a candidate. The RCC is opposed to death penalty, does that mean that the catholic Church is advocating against Bush?

is the IRS going to go after every preacher who said “pray for the troops” or “pray for our leaders” on the day before election day? I think not. That’s one of the problems with exempting churches from paying taxes. They have to be politically muzzled in such a way that it becomes almost impossibly to draw a clear line between religious and political speech. That allows incumbant powers to selectively target those churches that they don’t like.

And in support of Bricker, I have advocated churches losing their tax exempt status for poltical activity. Starting with Falwell, Dobson, Robertson – the Evil Trinity, as it were. I’m OK with churches that openly advocate liberal political positions losing their status, too. But it’s gotta be consistent. And it won’t be.

That would be me. But I am not so outraged about the suppression of any particular message, as I am about the one-sided and ideological application of the law. If liberal churches are to be sanctioned for sermons that oppose the president, then conservative churches should be sanctioned for sermons that support the president. Would you agree, Bricker?