about friggin' time 11.08.2005

It's not all that uncommon to receive a politically charged "sermon" at some churches across the country. Either right-wing remarks or left-wing remarks, if done in an incidental way (such as illustrating an important non-political biblical message) are reasonable, I suppose--but there are limits on how far the political remarks should go. To cross those limits and you are not tending to your flock, as the half who occupy the opposite side of the political aisle will wonder why they are being belittled for their politics for no biblically justifiable reason.

And, according to the IRS's 501(c)3 tax exemption code for churches, there are practical limits as well--practical limits which seem crossed every time some politician lectures his politics at the pulpit or when some rector lectures on how one should vote.

It appears the anti-war lectures that took place just before the 2004 presidential elections given at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena has crossed that line with the IRS.:
In his sermon, Regas, who from the pulpit opposed both the Vietnam War and 1991's Gulf War, imagined Jesus participating in a political debate with then-candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry. Regas said that "good people of profound faith" could vote for either man, and did not tell parishioners whom to support.

But he criticized the war in Iraq, saying that Jesus would have told Bush, "Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster."

On June 9, the church received a letter from the IRS stating that "a reasonable belief exists that you may not be tax-exempt as a church … " The federal tax code prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns and elections.

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."

The IRS cited The Times story's description of the sermon as a "searing indictment of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq" and noted that the sermon described "tax cuts as inimical to the values of Jesus."

About time.

posted by William Woody at 9:00 AM

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