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cushioncrawler
10-19-2011, 09:11 AM
Bachmann illegally endorsed from the pulpit? The IRS reaction? Fearful failure to enforce the law. By SEAN FAIRCLOTH - RDFRS
Added: Saturday, 08 October 2011 at 5:43 AM - An RDFRS Original

Fundamentalist preachers want to endorse candidates that spew hate against gay people and treat women as second-class citizens -- and they demand a tax subsidy to do it.

Meanwhile the Obama administration seems to have chosen to be no better (and possibly worse) than the Bush administration, when it comes to permitting politicking from the pulpit (with a tax subsidy from you).

As an October 1 piece in the New York Times reported, some experts “virtually certain [the IRS] has no continuing audits of church political activity.” This from one group of ministers who, commendably, support separation of church and state. Whether or not the audits are none or few, there is no doubt the Obama administration is permitting widespread violation of the law. Indeed numerous fundamentalist ministers overtly do so -- as the Obama administration meekly sits by. Indeed the Obama IRS, unlike the Bush IRS, ceased to issue reports on illegal campaigning from entities such as churches.

Let me address one fundamentalist canard swiftly: Mega-minister crocodile tears to the contrary, the issue has nothing to do with religious freedom or freedom of speech. Let no one tell you otherwise. One fundamentalist pastor, who opposes the IRS prohibition on preaching from the pulpit, pledged quite specifically to both oppose and endorse candidates from the pulpit based on whether or not they agree with his right wing position on gay marriage and a woman’s right to choose.

This reverend, James Garlow, misleadingly declares that there should be “no government intrusion in the pulpit.” I declare that there should be no fundamentalist intrusion on my wallet.

I completely agree that this right wing minister should be free to vent his anti-gay bile – and endorse candidates from the pulpit on that basis if he so chooses -- but his church should then lose eligibility for tax deductible contributions (among other tax subsidies).

The fundamentalist preachers manage to make it through an entire New York Times story without addressing this “fundamental” point. The issue isn’t freedom of speech or religion. The issue is the tax subsidy that we all are forced to provide to religions.

Preachers can say whatever they want from the pulpit -- but a tax deduction is in effect a government subsidy. Don’t think so? Contrast treatment of churches with a business that creates products that actually help people. And of course, you and I pay taxes as individuals. The rest of us thus subsidize tax-exempt churches that preach hate against gay people and subordination of women (and for that matter, hindus are forced to subsidize muslims, conservative religious people are forced to subsidize liberal religions).

It gets worse. The IRS, under Bush not Obama, dared to audit a church that (the IRS had reason to believe) endorsed an obscure political candidate from the pulpit. The obscure politician that the mega-church apparently endorsed is the no longer obscure Michelle Bachmann.

The church sued the government! Why? Under Ronald Reagan a law passed, holding that only a high IRS official can authorize an audit of a church. Bachmann’s mega-church friends argued the IRS official who initiated the audit didn’t come from a high enough level of the bureaucracy.

This adds nasty insult to tax injury: If you run a 501c3 non-profit that helps poverty-stricken children, the IRS can audit you as it so chooses – a medium or low IRS official is perfectly sufficient to instigate an audit.

But if a rich minister with a luxury tax exempt home (a unique exemption lining wealthy ministerial pockets), then you can object to any audit unless a high IRS official triggers the investigation.

The church wasn’t addressing the violation of the law. Instead they, unlike the rest of us, could exercise their special option to veto an audit that didn’t spring from a high IRS official.

Of course, under Obama, it’s apparently doubtful that any IRS official whatsoever will actually fulfill their professional duty in such matters. (Civil servants are generally good folks held back from principled work by political appointees. The responsibility for this timorous behavior resides at the top.)

Recap:


•Churches get tax deductible gifts. They are often exempt from local pay property taxes or other taxes.
•With said money clerics are free to tout hate, sexism, and rail against things like stem cell research.
•Unlike all other non-profits, for profits, and individuals, only a “high” IRS official can dare to authorize an audit of a church.
•The Obama administration apparently does not dare to fulfill its statutory obligation to enforce the law – even with a high IRS official. (This is ironic since Treasurer Secretary Giethner is the first to admit that his boss finds our government a tad short for cash).

It gets even worse. If the New York Times piece is any guide, the fundamentalist mega-ministers (despite the above facts) play the victim card. They’re starting a campaign in which they will protest the “denial” of freedom of speech and religion – because they can currently spew right-wing ideology from the pulpit -- but can’t legally endorse candidates expressly.

I agree with Republican President (and Civil War hero) Ulysses Grant that churches should not be subsidized via tax exemptions at all. But leaving that aside, what ministers continually fail to mention is that they can say whatever they choose – they just can’t avail themselves of a tax subsidy while endorsing candidates.

501c3 non-profit corporations (the ones charged with actually doing charitable work instead of proselytizing) are subject to the same restriction against candidate endorsement – a fact the New York Times article failed to mention.

The Richard Dawkins Foundation US is dedicated to reason and science. In addition to that, we must organize and speak out. As Director of Strategy and Policy for RDF US, I’m determined to organize in every state to shine a much-needed light on the tax abuses conducted by fundamentalist extremists.

We hope someday the Obama Administration would not only have the strength to enforce current law, but to challenge, in these desperate financial times, the tax privileges uniquely offered to religion. Why are Americans forced to subsidize an ideology, right wing fundamentalism for example, that most Americans do not support? It would be wrong to force even one America to subsidize a religion against their conscience. As it is, millions of us forced to subsidize the religious bias of others. Sadly the Obama administration seems determined to sit silently as even current law is flagrantly ignored.