Under federal law, it is illegal for churches and other so-called 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations to "participate in, or intervene in … any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office." But in recent years the
That soon may change. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which had sued the IRS seeking to require it to enforce the law, says it has reached an agreement with the IRS under which the agency has adopted procedures for "reviewing, evaluating and determining whether to initiate church investigations."
IRS investigation of political activity by nonprofits has been complicated by allegations that the agency improperly targeted
News of the agreement between the IRS and the Freedom From Religion Foundation already has led to overheated charges that the IRS is about to launch an assault on religious liberty. In a letter to Atty. Gen.
And the notion that the ban on endorsements violates the 1st Amendment is mistaken. Congress is free to condition tax exemptions — which can be worth millions of dollars — on an agreement by churches and charities to refrain from speech that otherwise would be constitutionally protected.
Granted, some sermons will fall into a gray area. That was the case with a sermon at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena on the Sunday before the 2004 presidential election. The retired rector who spoke didn't explicitly endorse either George W. Bush or John F. Kerry, but he suggested that Jesus would have condemned Bush's
The IRS could avoid the problem of overreaching by applying to sermons the clear standard set forth by the Supreme Court in 2007 for evaluating political advertisements. Chief Justice