Christian Group Wants Churches to Endorse Political Candidates

The Religious Right is just *begging* for the IRS to come after them. They want churches to become involved with politics. They want pastors to tell their congregations to vote for certain candidates. They want churches getting involved with political issues. It’s not subtle or under-the-radar either:

Mat Staver

Liberty Counsel is distributing over 100,000 copies of “Silence is Not an Option,” a DVD and printed material set informing pastors and churches about what is permissible regarding political and advocacy activity.

“The church must be empowered to confront the assaults on our culture, our faith, and our freedom,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “I don’t want any pastor, church leader or lay person to say, ‘What more could I have done to protect life and liberty?’”

“Silencing people of faith in the public square has always been the goal of those who realize the influence that pastors, churches, and people of faith have on elections. I want pastors to remove the muzzle and replace it with a megaphone,” said Staver. “Pastors and churches have a lot of freedom to address Biblical and moral issues, to educate people about the candidates, and to encourage people to vote. Not one church has ever lost its tax-exemption for endorsing or opposing candidates or for supporting or opposing local, state or federal laws,” said Staver.

The sad part is the IRS isn’t doing what they’re supposed to do. Churches are tax-exempt and that means they cannot endorse candidates. If they want to play the politics game, they have to start paying taxes. Americans United and FFRF have been alerting the IRS to transgressions for years — with proof — with no actual results to show for it.

I want to know why the IRS is letting this slide.

By the way, I tried obtaining a copy of “Silence is Not an Option.” The site said “Suggested Donation of $10.00.”

Well, if it’s only suggested, I should be able to pay nothing, right?

Nope. $10.00 *is* the selling price.

“Suggested” my ass.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Lamocla

    They can get away with it and they know that the IRS will do nothing. Waste of time trying to get the IRS to do something about those crooks.

  • Marguerite

    The really irritating thing is that the more they get away with it, the more they think they’re ENTITLED to get away with it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1078695333 David Kopp

    Here we see the violence inherent in the system!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOOTKA0aGI0

  • Skizzle

    If it’s clear that the IRS is failing in its duty, isn’t that grounds to start a lawsuit (or at least an official investigation of some sort)?

    • 3lemenope

      The trouble with a suit is someone must have standing to sue, which generally means they need to be able to show direct harm as a result of the act prompting the suit. When tax law is involved, it gets crazy very quickly, because a whole other layer of wrinkles is added specifically to make it difficult to sue over tax policy, else everyone would sue to avoid paying taxes they don’t like. Recall that the entire first day of the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act was on the subject of tax law and standing.

      Any lawyers in the house who want to take a stab at who might have standing to sue under these circumstances?

  • RobMcCune

    I want to know why the IRS is letting this slide.

    Sadly its due to the political clout these sorts of churches hold. Additionally the right will go nuts (even more so) if they perceive something they hate, the tax man, attacking something they love, rightwing authoritarian churches.

    • Rob Okay

       “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  This is REAL political clout.  It’s called the  First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.  This country was established on Freedom of Religion and the courts have held that taxing churches is unconstitutional.  Taxation REQUIRES representation in this country.  In fact, the founding fathers were the ones who wrote: “Taxation without representation is tyranny!”  If the government taxes churches then she is obligated to represent them.  That means that the House of Representatives would have to be populated, in part, by a representative portion of Presbyterians, Catholics, Baptists, and so on.   It also follows that, in order to be a recognized and represented church, your local community church would have to register itself with the government.  Not only that but there would also have to be Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu representatives on the payroll in Washington.  Every subset (denomination) of every religion in the world would have to have representation in the Legislative Branch of our government.

  • Stev84

    It’s no coincidence that Republicans constantly try to cut the IRS’s budget. They have less and less resources to go after tax violation, which is of course what their religious and corporate masters want

    • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

      Is that right? (I’m genuinely asking here) I was under the impression that the IRS had been clamping down harshly on the offshore assets of the uberwealthy, and had managed to recover quite a motherlode of back taxes as a result. Surely the “corporate masters” –and let’s face it, religion is also corporate in the U.S. of A– are among the uberwealthy. At the very least they’re best pals with people who have a line to government.

  • http://twitter.com/silo_mowbray Silo Mowbray

    What he said: “The church must be empowered to confront the assaults on our culture, our faith, and our freedom,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “I don’t want any pastor, church leader or lay person to say, ‘What more could I have done to protect life and liberty?’”

    What he meant: “Social conservative Christians, and ONLY Christians, must be free to assert our value system and culture on everyone else, and non-Christians should NOT be allowed to resist,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of an organization predicated on entitlement, privilege and bigotry. “I don’t want any of our henchmen or blind sheep to say, ‘Why wasn’t I allowed to force everyone else to do what I want them to?’”

  • Baby_Raptor

    it might be horrible of me, but I can’t wait until Christianity is the minority in this country and these people get treated the way they treat the rest of us now. Karma is a bitch. 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

      Good luck with that… I hate to be Debbie Downer, but this smacks of the first shot in the theocratic war that is coming.  They know that the reps in Washington won’t stop them.

  • mikespeir

    “Let’s see if we can get ourselves persecuted.  Then we’ll be Real Christians!”

    • Spherical Basterd

      Really! Where’s a pride of lions when you need them for some real persecution?

  • Bryan Gillis

    I want to know why the IRS is letting this slide.

    Here’s my understanding of it: A regulation was put into place during the Reagan administration that a church’s non-profit status can’t be investigated unless a sufficiently high-ranking official within the IRS orders it. Alerting them to a problem does nothing, and most of them couldn’t do anything about it even if they wanted to.

    As for the question of why those who could do something choose to do nothing, it probably comes down to simple politics. They have nothing to gain from investigating churches and nothing to lose from failing to act, so they do nothing.

  • phantomreader42

    Any church that participates in this should not only lose its tax exemption, they should get an immediate bill for TWO HUNDRED THIRTY SIX  YEARS of back taxes with interest.  

    • 3lemenope

      Er, why?

      • phantomreader42

         If they insist the rules for tax exemption don’t apply to their cult, then they never should have had a tax exemption.  So, backdate it to the founding of the country, and demand they pay it all with interest. 

        • 3lemenope

          I’m all for punishing churches that violate the law, but only for punishing actual violations, not violations we imagine very well might have happened in the past. The reality is that this behavior (even today) is fairly rare and has always been so, and so there is no call whatsoever to punish retroactively. 

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      I think back taxes for the entire time the country has been in existence would be a bit much. Back taxes on the entire time the church has been in existence would be more reasonable.

      • phantomreader42

        But some of these churches falsely claim to have been in existence 2000 years, which is beyond US jurisdiction and shows that their own ability to accurately report their age is not to be trusted.  

  • Fargofan

    Homer Simpson to museum clerk:  What do you mean by “suggested donation”?
    Clerk:  Pay any amount you wish, sir.
    Homer:  And, uh, what if I wish to pay…zero?

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    It would be smart for churches to do it en mass. The IRS taking action against them all would be very politically toxic.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/FRJD66AT6LQ6CZZ46XJO43A4FM Artor

      To some people maybe. I and most of the people I know would stand up & cheer if churches lost their tax-exempt status.

      • BigCountry602

        I would stand up with you and cheer.

  • Helanna

    I really love this false dichotomy he’s set up to make churches the victims. Look, churches can absolutely get involved in the political arena – you just have to pay taxes. It’s one or the other. This is not limited to churches, so stop acting like you’re so special.

     And what the bloody hell? ‘What more could I have done to protect life and liberty?’” Sorry, when did we start shooting Christians in the street? I think I missed that memo.

    • kaydenpat

      I think he means that the current administration is pro-abortion and anti-constitution (“Obamacare”, gun restrictions, etc.).  Keep in mind that the Religious Right makes things up as they go along and are not moored in reality.  Persecution in their minds is anything with which they disagree.  You would think they were a tiny, persecuted minority by the way they blather.  You wouldn’t know that Christians make up 85% of the US population!

  • Nordog

    You know, liberal churches have been doing this for years for the Democrats, especially in the African American churches.  Personally, I hate to see either side doing this and it should stop, but this is hardly new.

  • http://twitter.com/moother moother

    As much as it interests me that churches want to break the law or why the IRS will probably not enforce the law, I’d like some US based opinions on this question: why now?

    What is it exactly that has triggered this religio-political activism? Is this a push from the political side (read: GOP) to broaden their voter base or is it that churches feel that they are losing relevance and want to gain followers through political allegiance?

    Or none of the above. Please help a poor European understand wtf is going on here.

    • 3lemenope

      There are a melange of factors feeding into this. This is actually a rehash of something that they were threatening to do in ’08, so it isn’t precisely new, and pulpiteers on both sides of the political divide have been flouting the law on this particular issue for a much longer time than that.

      Part of it is indeed a coordinated political push to help specific candidates or parties (more on the right than the left this time around, but it certainly wasn’t always thus). Part of it is that churches are hemorrhaging members–particularly young members–and thus the writing is on the wall for their political influence over the long term, so they figure this is the time to get their shots in. Certainly drawing and/or losing a few high profile battles (such as the Affordable Care Act contraception kerfuffle) has lent some real urgency and immediacy to their panic. I personally think this time around it has also been intensified by the bizarre panic amongst some sections of society as to the religious and cultural character of the president, who has been otherized like no other holding the office before him; he is a ready symbol of the scary other to these people, and his presence in charge of the executive has galvanized them into action.

    • The Captain

      As 3lemenope points out it’s a bit complicated and there are a lot of factors, but one thing that needs to be understood is that here in the US a large part of the christian right has been just as much a political movement as a religious one. This is  why most evangelical christians usually have the same opinions on political issues that are not even covered in the bible. Or like in the case of economics, or immigration for instance, they all take positions that directly contradict the biblical teachings. This is just trying to make it official.

    • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

      I agree it is due to a number of factors. 

      Partly, it is a reaction from people who are having their religious privilege threatened. In earlier times, atheists were all in the closet except for a handful of tolerated intellectuals but now there are many more people questioning the details of Christian theology.  This questioning can be tolerated if it only comes from a few intellectuals, but it gets scary for many people when it comes from more and more people. 

      Another reason is the deterioration of the American middle-class  The standard of living for middle-class America is declining.  It is human nature to want to find easy targets to blame.  The political right is conducting a large campaign to blame atheists, lesbians, gays, liberals, feminists, environmentalists, secularists, Muslims, and all “others”.  They say “If only we could get back to traditional America values, then all would be OK again and prosperity would return”.  They define American values as atheists, secularists, gays, and lesbians back in the closet, liberal ideas in name only but not in practice, environmental regulations rolled back to help business be more profitable, Muslims and “others” deported, and everybody dressed up and sitting in church on Sunday mornings. 

    • phantomreader42

       Because these days, “christianity” in America does not have anything to do with the teachings of the mythical christ.  It is swiftly becoming nothing more than a political cult dedicated to the most batshit insane far-right delusions the GOP can come up with. 

      Christianity isn’t about jesus anymore.  It’s about hating gay people, atheists, muslims, women, poor people, children, the environment, science, reality, the Constitution and anything else the cult leaders tell the sheep to hate. 

  • http://www.fieryserpent.com/blog Fieryserpent

    People want the world to rule over them. They reject God.
    1Sam.8:7 and His true Law! They want to Make good bad and bad good! They want to turn
    the Laws of God upside down! We as Christian Should stay out of politics, but if the LAWS of God are not followed, we should unite and take a stand as one body in Christ. All Christian united as one, for what we believe.

    http://www.fieryserpent.com/blog

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

      You’re already in the majority.  You already hold all the darned cards.  You already have all the privilege.  You already have all the government in your pocket.

      What more do you frickin’ want!!???!?

      • http://profile.typepad.com/6p0120a5509de8970c Mikko

         all our heads on a plate

      • phantomreader42

         They want to be able to ignore any and all laws with total impunity if their version of the invisible man in the sky says so.  Including being allowed to openly massacre anyone not in their cult if the voices in their heads tell them to. 

  • Keulan

    I too would like to know why the IRS keeps letting churches get away with endorsing political candidates. They should be putting a stop to this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Margaret-Whitestone/100001682409207 Margaret Whitestone

    Religious people and groups have been avoiding lots of laws by screeching “religious liberties”.  Why not this one?  It’s open season it seems. 

    • Rwlawoffice

      Religious liberty is the law. Look at the first amendment.

      • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

        And like other liberties protected in the First Amendment, religious liberty is not absolute. You’d think that a lawyer would know that.

        • Rwlawoffice

          Where dd I say it was absolute? I didn’t. We have had this discussion but if you want to do it again I’m willing because you do have a misconception of the law on this subject.

          • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

            That’s basically the only way your comment is relevant, so forgive me for trying to interpret your asinine comment charitably.

            • phantomreader42

              Your error was in assuming that Rwlawoffice is capable of relevance, honesty, or good faith on any subject, or that it would use such capabilities if it had them. Bearing false witness, projection, and willful denial of all reality are the core tenets of its cult.

      • phantomreader42

        “Religious liberty” does not mean “the right of religious people to ignore the law with total impunity if they claim their imaginary friend says they can.” 

      • The Captain

        Coming from someone who has made it quite clear they want the government to pass laws excluding anyone else religions definition of marriage if it conflicts with yours, thus violating everyone else’s “religious liberties” just shows what a fucking joke you are.

        • Rwlawoffice

          So give me the religion that requires as part of its theology to have the state sanction the wedding ceremonies they perform?

          • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

            Okay, so you won’t mind if we eliminate Christian marriages, right?

          • The Captain

            Your right, christian marriages should not be recognized by the governent. I’m sure you agree right? 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/A37GL7VKR3W6ACSIZPH7EID3LI rlrose63

    I can’t help but think this is the first shot in the theocratic war.  It’s because they KNOW the government won’t do a damned thing to stop them, that’s why.  If any church loses their tax-exempt status, it will go all the way up the high court… and they won’t do anything.  They will uphold it.  They’re done with us hitting them with little lawsuits here and there.  They’re tired of having to fold on all of those small things.  They’re going for the BIG battle and this is the start.

    I agree with phantomreader42… they should be forced to pay back taxes if they are busted.  I wish I could say that I don’t understand why they don’t get it but I do understand.  They want to own the country and this is the beginning of that attempt.

    • The Captain

      I think your giving the “religious” part of the religious right too much credit here. I feel this is more of a case of the political right usurping the religious part.

    • Stev84

       It’s hardly the “first” shot. The war has been going on for some time

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

    Well you could always write to the head of the IRS and request a formal reply. Set your case out logically with numbered bullet points, include evidence of intended or deliberate breaches of the law, such as the above public statement and the stack of news reports about actual breaches. and ask for a detailed response to all of your points.

    You could get your state representatives to also ask for such a response (if they are a Dem I suppose that would be more likely than a rep of Gods Own Party) on your behalf.

    You need enough people doing that so the IRS cant sweep it under the rug any more. 

  • Rwlawoffice

    So without reading the program designed to inform the pastors on the law and how they can legally talk about these subjects you reachbthevconclusion that what they are doing is illegal. Very rational and evidenced based conclusion.

    • phantomreader42

      So, have YOU read the program?  Where in it does it state how to magically make the rules forbidding churches from endorsing candidates while tax-exempt go away?  What is it about this program that gives it the power to ignore the actual law?

      I realize you’re a brainwashed idiot, but a program from your cult does not invalidate the law just because it would be convenient for you if it did so. 

      • Rwlawoffice

        There you go again. Just like Hemant, thinking the program endorses illegality without ever reading it. I know this program and the group that prepared it. They instruct pastors on what they can say without breaking the law.

        • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

          So, can pastors endorse candidates, and does the program state such? Since you’re so knowledgeable on the subject.

    • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

      You obviously ignored the bolded statement of Staver’s that Hemant quoted above.

      • phantomreader42

        That’s to be expected, Rwlawoffice’s entire worldview is founded on willful ignorance

  • Drew84

    The IRS along with tax departments in all countries will never have the balls to go after religion when it breaks the rules. Why? Cause religion is the largest industry in the world that do what ever it wants and get away with it. It’s no different then the fact that religious charities don’t need to provide proof that they do the work they say they do with the money they receive but non-religious charities have to provide proof.

  • kaydenpat

    “Americans United and FFRF have been alerting the IRS to transgressions for years — with proof — with no actual results to show for it.”

    Has the IRS ever responded to AU or FFRF to explain why they haven’t taken any action against the offending churches?  Just curious.  Sounds more like they’re afraid of the political attack that would come against them from the Right.  I chalk it up to cowardice.  Too bad.

  • Rob Okay

    Churches have been found to be tax exempt, not because they filled out a form but because, by nature, the government is not permitted to inject itself into religion.  “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion” has been  interpreted to mean that the government shall maintain a hands-off policy with regard to church teaching – as long as the church is not teaching insurrection, revolution, or other forms of governmental overthrow.  A church coming out in favor of one candidate or another is NOT revolutionary; quite the contrary- she is, in fact, working within the system.

    The rules ALL change, however, if the church becomes a 503c, tax exempt organization.  For example, many (if not all) Catholic Parochial Schools are funded in part by the government.  Once a church gets in bed with the government (by taking government money) THEN the government has an OBLIGATION to regulate what is taught by that entity.

    A church that takes money from the government has ceased being an agent of the kingdom of God and has sold her soul for 30-pieces of silver to the powers that be.


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