Free Speech is a Civil Right: IRS and the Freedom from Religion Foundation Disagree

Free speech is a civil right bumper sticker

So … we’ve got an organization whose sole purpose is to drive religious expression from the public sphere by the use of threats of legal action and harassment.

This organization files a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service and demands that the IRS join them in their harassment of religious people by “monitoring” churches for possible violations of IRS rules. In this instance, what they were suing about was the so-called “Johnson Amendment” to the IRS code.

The Johnson Amendment is the basis for the IRS rule that preachers may not endorse candidates from the pulpit if they are to receive tax-free status. The IRS rule itself is quite specific and narrow. Neither it nor the Johnson Amendment were intended to become the dreadnought by which churches are harassed and bullied in order to keep them from speaking out on moral issues. But that is exactly what has happened.

Groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation routinely conflate the Johnson Amendment with a limitation on First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and religion, including freedom of speech in religion. They harass, bully and intimidate Christians all over the country with threats of lawsuits.  I say Christians because I am not aware of them doing this to other faiths.

It seems obvious to me that they are using the Johnson Amendment as a lever to try to destroy the moral and prophetic voice of Christianity, not only in the public sphere, but from the pulpit, as well.

The Internal Revenue Service of the United States government settled this latest lawsuit by agreeing to become the FFRF’s hammer to beat down on free speech in the pulpit. They didn’t say this in so many words. What they agreed to do was to single out groups based on whether or not they are faith (read that Christian) organizations and “monitor” what their pastors preach for possible violations of the IRS code. If that is not a deliberately chilling government surveillance for the purpose of limiting free speech, what is?

It is particularly salient that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is not just trying to stop churches from endorsing candidates for political office; it is also claiming that they violate the Johnson Amendment when they discuss legislation or political issues. Abortion is a political issue. Gay marriage is a political issue. The genocide in the Middle East is a political issue. Corporatism, the environment, divorce, pornography, sex trafficking, prostitution, taxes, jobs and most everything else in America is a political issue.

We are Americans, which means that we are political people. We have what is purported to be a government of, by and for the people, which means at its root that governmental matters belong to us to cuss, discuss, slice and dice however we choose. That should include every segment of our society, including the pulpit.

If we are also Christians, then our faith guides us in everything we do. Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives. We try to follow the Gospels in everything. Our faith leaders have not just a right, they have a responsibility to lead us in the Gospel paths of living.

There is no line for Americans between themselves and their politics for the simple reason that our politics, and our government, are us. Our beliefs are legitimately pertinent to political debate because we are the government.

What this lawsuit by the FFRF — and other actions to censor and stifle religious discussion, opinions and activism —  amount to is an attempt to censor and silence a whole set of ideas. This lawsuit is a blatant push to silence people that the FFRF disagrees with by the use of government surveillance of selected groups, coupled with the threat of government action against those groups, and the government is going along with it. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is using the IRS to censor speech in the pulpit. This is not an attempt to drive Christianity from the pubic square through bullying. It is a direct mis-use of government power to silence free speech among a whole class of citizens because another group of citizens does not like what they are saying.

The IRS is going to “monitor” churches to see if the clergy talks about anything more pertinent to our daily lives than, say, Isaac blessing Jacob instead of Esau, for the purpose of hauling them up before the Man. It is as simple as that.

From New American:

The Internal Revenue Service continues to extend its already vast overreach, this time by agreeing to monitor church sermons as part of an agreement the government made on July 17 with the aggressively atheistic Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Freedom Outpost reported, “The Internal Revenue Service settled a lawsuit brought by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The 2012 lawsuit was settled after the IRS agreed to monitor what is said in houses of worship, something that is a clear violation of the First Amendment, since no law can be written by Congress to this effect.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Wisconsin, brought the suit against the IRS, asserting that the group had been ignoring complaints that churches were violating their tax-exempt statuses. According to the group’s suit, churches promote political issues, legislation, and candidates from the pulpit.

FFRF asserted, “Pulpit Freedom Sunday … has become an annual occasion for churches to violate the law with impunity. The IRS, meanwhile, admittedly was not enforcing the restrictions against churches.”

FFRF claims that the churches are acting in violation of the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which states that non-profits cannot endorse candidates.

A 2009 court ruling determined that the IRS must staff someone to monitor church politicking, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation claims that the IRS has not been adhering to the ruling.

Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom and head of the Pulpit Initiative, told LifeSiteNews that “the IRS has no business censoring what a pastor preaches from the pulpit.” Stanley states that his organization is currently “attempting to bring the era of IRS censorship and intimidation to an end by challenging the Johnson Amendment, which imposes unconstitutional restrictions on clergy speech.”

He contends that churches should not have to choose between tax-exempt status and freedom of speech. “No one would suggest a pastor give up his church’s tax-exempt status if he wants to keep his constitutional protection against illegal search and seizure or cruel and unusual punishment,” he said.

Stanley insists that not only would it be unfair for churches to have to choose between one or the other, but that “churches are automatically tax exempt out of recognition that the surest way to destroy the free exercise of religion is to begin taxing it.” “Churches are constitutionally entitled to a tax exemption and that exemption cannot be conditioned on the surrender of constitutional rights.”

In celebration of its victory with the IRS, the Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a press release wherein it outlined its win:

The IRS has now resolved the signature authority issue necessary to initiate church examinations. The IRS also has adopted procedures for reviewing, evaluating and determining whether to initiate church investigations. While the IRS retains “prosecutorial” discretion with regard to any individual case, the IRS no longer has a blanket policy or practice of non-enforcement of political activity restrictions as to churches.

The press release also acknowledges, however, that the judge in the case could not order immediate action since a moratorium has been placed on the investigations by the IRS of tax exempt groups after the 2013 scandal in which the IRS was found to have been targeting Christian and conservative groups.

  • FW Ken

    The FFRF is a hate group. Period. They even bullied a private restaurant into giving up a discount to customers who pray before their meals.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/deaconsbench/2014/08/diner-drops-prayer-discount-after-atheists-threaten-to-sue/

    Atheism is a malignant ideology which adds nothing to a positive common life, and takes away whatever it can.

    • fredx2

      And they wonder why they are not popular.

    • Nick Winters

      To be fair, it actually is illegal for public accommodations to offer enhanced services on the basis of religion. If you don’t like it, amend the civil rights act. How is pushing people to actually follow the law bullying? It may be petty, certainly, much like pushing the police to enforce jaywalking ordinances, but the law does exist for a variety of historical reasons.

      • FW Ken

        It is petty, but there is a response.

        No one is saying it has to be a Christian prayer, or any specific religion. It could be a secular moment of silence, probably good for the digestion.

        Back to being petty, the obvious intent of the public accommodation laws was to rectify segregation and create a more open society, not to give atheists a platform to attack decent peoplease on the basis of their faith.

      • FW Ken

        It should be noted that the actual illegality of the act was not establlished, since the restaurant owners did not push the FFRP into actually suing. What might have happened in court is anybodies guess.

        In a similar manner, several comments assume churches are breaking the law, but no evidence is advanced.

        • hamiltonr

          FWiW, the FFRF sent a threatening letter, and the restaurant ceased offering the discount rather than get into a legal hassle with a bunch of bullies. The FFRF cited civil rights law. I don’t think they have a legal leg to stand on. This was not a refusal of accommodation. It was a discount.

          That’s how the FFRF usually operates. They bluster and bully and scare people with lawyer letters to intimidate them into altering their behavior to avoid the expense and emotional chaos of going to court.

          In many ways, what they’re doing is akin to thugs demanding protection money or they’ll burn your house down. The FFRF uses threats and intimidation to extort compliance in exchange for not being forced to hire attorneys and mount a defense in court.

          • FW Ken

            And all with tax-free money.

          • Lark62

            The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlaws discrimination in public accommodations (e.g. restaurants and hotels) on the basis of religion. It is not bullying to expect restaurants to comply with the law.

            The local country club cannot charge catholics $1000 more to join than they charge non-catholics. Everyone gets charged the same price, and discounts must be available regardless of religion. Discounts military, seniors, etc. are fine as long as they don’t discriminate on race or religion.

            There are lots of ways the restaurant could have changed their discount. They could have called it the “you made my day” discount, and offered it just as randomly, but included the teenager spending time with a grandparent, and the dad listening to his six year tell a long story and, yes, saying grace.

            The Civil Rights Act is a good law. This restaurant seems to be owned by good people. It is not extortion to ask the restaurant to obey the law.

            • FW Ken

              As noted above, it’s not established that the people broke the law. The FFRF says they did, but they agent a court. The text of the Civil Rights Act forbids discrimination on the basis of religion, but the owners of the restaurant were rewarding a behavior that might be done by religious folks as prayer or non-religious folks as a moment of silence. Hence, no discrimination. Anyway, that’s the case I would make in court.

              It is fun to watch atheists claim religious discrimination after so long at trying to deny their Atheism is not a religion.

  • oregon nurse

    I have not heard a single politician’s name come from my pastor’s mouth, ever. We hear about Catholic moral and religious principles which of course most people apply to their decisions of daily life. We are not political, we are moral. How sad the two cannot be understood as different anymore.

    Even if a church was political, it is silly to come down only on churches when we allow all kinds of tax exempt political ‘speech’. The ACLU particularly comes to mind. They demonstrate a clear liberal political bias and attempt to change laws they don’t like (and ignore other constitutional over-stepping like this) which is far more harmful to a plural society than a church pastor. I don’t like supporting their speech via their tax-exempt status but oh, gee, isn’t that freedom already well established? I’d like to know why churches and their members should have less freedom.

  • vox borealis

    As I get older, I become more and more convinced that the Founding Fathers had it right: (strictly) limited and (strictly) enumerated government is the only real safeguard against abuse and tyranny by the State. Yet instead we hand over more and more power to the state, especially to ever more sprawling state bureaucracies with almost limitless leveraging power.

    • FW Ken

      The problem begins with the 16th amendment, which inserts the federal government into every home and business in the U.S. Outside of the question of whether taxing income is a good idea, you can’t deny the massive intrusion that the IRS represents in everyday American life.

      • hamiltonr

        I agree. I was thinking about this today. That amendment needs amending. However, the solution to this problem is statutory, which is much simpler.

  • AnneG

    I had heard about this settlement, but thanks for the explanation. That’s the problem with people making the law say anything they want it to mean. And, you cannot have a representative democracy unless people, including elected officials voluntarily control themselves. I wonder if the IRS had some insiders pushing for this settlement. I think this administration just thinks Christians are a nuisance.

  • fredx2

    Will the IRS’s first stop be the black churches that have always used their pulpits to organize voter drives and recommend candidates? I doubt it. That is part of their heritage and they should be allowed to continue doing it. It doesn’t hurt anyone, rather it is participating in the Democratic system.. Somehow I think that part will be skipped in the new push to monitor Christians in this country.

    • Nick Winters

      It should be noted that many churches actually opt out of tax exemption in order to pursue initiatives like this, and they should be commended for following the law and staying true to their principles.

      Of course, conservatives should rightly point out the hypocrisy if liberal churches BOTH A.) Take the exemption and B.) Recommend specific candidates (voter registration drives are not an issue under the law.) We need a strong opposition party to correct overreach from whoever is in power. Just make sure you are actually criticizing truly illegal discrimination, and understand the law before you speak up…

    • Lark62

      Yes. If they are promoting candidates in violation of the rules governing the tax exemption, then yes. It actually works well for churches – on both sides – to stay above the political fray.

  • hamiltonr

    So, you support freedom of religion behind closed doors — which means you oppose this lawsuit and IRS settlement, btw — but not on the streets because if people can say religious things in public it will lead to genocide.

    That an interesting bit of illogic. The First Amendment says nothing about freedom only being for indoor activities. There is no American limit on free speech that applies requires its limitation to under a roof and behind walls. This is just you, trying to censor other people’s free speech because you don’t like what they say.

    You attempt to dignify what is in fact and in practice advocacy for tyranny by claiming that if people can talk about religion in public, it will lead to genocide.

    I don’t suppose that murderous intent could possibly be fomented indoors. It only occurs out of doors, or outside people’s homes and houses of worship.

    There is no basis in American law for limiting free speech and freedom of religion to indoor activities. In fact, there is quite a bit of law — including the Constitution — allowing it in public venues.

    What you are advocating is tyranny that is quite similar to many of the restrictions placed on religious activity in Communist countries. That, of course, is the problem with militant secularism (as opposed to healthy secularism which calls for mutual respect between competing beliefs.) It is just a form f tyranny.

    • Jeff Jankowiak

      I am not trying to suppress free speech. I believe anyone can say anything they want and where they want. But inhibiting free commerce is another thing. We have minorities in this country which deserve equal access to all good and services. When you begin using your faith as a weapon to deny goods and services then you are wrong. I will always defend people of faith if someone from another faith (or atheist) would deny them equal access to goods and services.
      I am not advocating tyranny. I am trying to prevent the majority from attacking the minority. That is the most important purpose of OUR US Constitution. I suggest you sit down one day and read it.

      • hamiltonr

        You’re changing the subject in order to create a red herring. I’m not in the mood. Go back to the atheist blogs and call me names, then follow through by calling Christians names. But you aren’t taking over this blog today. As I said, I’m not in the mood.

        • FW Ken

          Post this or not, as you wish. But I how you don’t give up on the combox, like Fr. Longenecker has. I am not going to troll the atheist blogs, and is valuable to hear their nonsense from time to time. Besides, you have a variety of commenters who add a lot to my thinking.

          • hamiltonr

            Thanks Ken. I’ll try to lighten up. I’ve spent a lot of time, dealing with what’s happening in Iraq, plus some things that are happening here in Oklahoma. I guess it’s made me snappish.

            I have no intention of giving up on the com boxes.

            • FW Ken

              I’m glad. The situation in Iraq and Syria has had me on edge, as well.

              • hamiltonr

                I’m not so much on edge as I am horrified to the core of my soul. I’m also committed to do what I can through whatever medium is available to me to stopping this. That’s why I’ve been writing about it. I have no patience — zero — with those who do find it appalling.

                • FW Ken

                  I think you are looking at more of the pictures than I am. My day job brings me into contact with enough bad stuff, so I limit myself off-hours.

                  The news tonight said that the American military is taking supplies to Mt. Sinjar, and they are planning an evacuation mission. I pray it succeeds.

                • pagansister

                  There is certainly a lot to be appalled about—unfortunately!

        • Jeff Jankowiak

          I am not trying to take over anything. And I did not call anyone “names”. And as a Christian I am entitled to come here and express my faith and beliefs or do you somehow have a lock on this too?

          • hamiltonr

            No Jeff, you are not “entitled” to come here and express anything. There is no right, Constitutional or otherwise, to post in Public Catholic’s com boxes.

            Having said that, I was too harsh with you. I apologize.

            • Lark62

              Rebecca – you tend to be pretty good about allowing different viewpoints, which makes your blog fun (and educational) to read.

              • hamiltonr

                Thanks.

      • Rick Connor

        In my part of the country Black Churches are politically active–they invite politicians to speak during services on election years. Black Churches routinely have “get out the vote” campaigns, going so far as to take unregistered voters to register AND to vote. Are Black Churches doing something wrong with their political advocacy? Should they be kept from encouraging and assisting Black Americans to exercise their rights? Is your interpretation of religious freedom an attack on Black and Latino minorities?
        Are you trying to silence all Churches (Black Churches, Unitarians, Quakers, liberal Protestants) or only conservative white churches? My friend’s Church is politically active, including during sermons. Their preacher advocates for an open border with Mexico, an end to war in Afghanistan and advocacy for gay marriage. Should my friend and his Church be silenced?
        There’s been evidence that the IRS has gone after groups it identifies as conservative or Tea-Party. Is the IRS really the group that should be monitoring freedom of speech and freedom of religion?

        • Jeff Jankowiak

          All these churches had better tread very carefully. I urge you to read the Johnson Amendment of 1954. A church must be very careful to not lose their tax exempt status. I am not saying faiths cannot speak out on issues. But if the faith begins to use their might as a weapon to deny religious freedom to others or access to goods and services to a specific group of people they are venturing on very thin ice.

          • hamiltonr

            Maybe we should amend the Johnson Amendment. It’s just a statute.

      • oregon nurse

        “I am not trying to suppress free speech.”

        And I am going to call BS. Your original comment clearly shows that’s exactly what you want to do:

        “Let me make this clear I am a strong supporter of freedom of religion in
        your home and houses of worship. But we have to keep religion and
        politics separate in the public square.”

        • Lark62

          The English language needs a few more words. The word “public” has different meaning in different contexts.

          Everyone is free to practice their religion “in public” where anyone can see them You can stand on a soap box and pray on street corners as long as you don’t block traffic. You can rent the pavilion at the local park for a religious event on the same terms as any other individual or organization. You can build churches on every street corner. That’s one definition of public.

          In another context, “public” means “government”. Public libraries, public parks, public schools and public buildings are all taxpayer funded. No one has the right to use public (government) property, resources or authority to advance one religious viewpoint.

          But anyone can practice their religion “in public” as they see fit.

          The term “public square” can be problematic, because sometimes that could mean “in public” while other times that could mean “public property.”

  • FW Ken

    That’s fine as long as atheists keep their religion out of the public square as well. That leads to guillotine and gulags.

    • Maine_Skeptic

      We’re agreed then. Good. Something’s been accomplished today.

    • Nick Winters

      No arguments there; as an atheist, i view mandating disbelief with much the same horror as I view Christian dominionism. Just keep in mind that Not advocating religion is not the same thing as advocating for atheism. An empty lawn in front of a courtroom is not an atheist symbol, but a nativity scene is.

      • FW Ken

        That’s absurd and bears no relationship to what’s actually happening. And this isn’t about mandating anything. It’s about your desire to silence voices that disagree with you. And it’s not like atheists will pick up the slack with social services, charities, relief and aid societies, and so on.

      • oregon nurse

        How convenient for you as an atheist that what you would like to see – keeping all mention of religion out of the public square – just happens to line up precisely with your unbelief, kind of a de-facto state establishment of atheism. What is not so convenient for you is that your motives are so transparent and unconstitutional.

        • Lark62

          That’s silly. There are a lot of banners atheists could put up promoting superstition free living. But atheists prefer that their beliefs about religion not be promoted on government property. (You will find that every time atheists put a message on public property it is there to balance a previously established religious message. The preferred choice is no religious message.)

          A city park with trees and benches is inviting to all. It is not discrimination for that space to be free of monuments or banners or displays advocating one religious viewpoint as the best one.

          And for clarification, the religion free “public square” refers to government property. Churches and organizations and individuals are all free to promote and communicate their beliefs “publicly” but just not with “public property.” (English and different meanings for similar words strikes again.)

  • oregon nurse

    ” But we have to keep religion and politics separate in the public square. If we do not we will end up like Iraq.”

    The only way that will happen is if the intolerance you espouse toward me becomes violent oppression. You know nothing of which you speak. People like you are dangerous because you either know exactly how facist you are or you are so blind you can’t see your own bigotry and hypocrisy.

    My politics is my religiously formed conscience and I will vote MY conscience not yours. Now go take your religious opinions back to your home since that’s where you believe they belong.

    • Lark62

      Last week, the host of Access Hollywood, a nationally syndicated show, said:

      “Every time I’m around, if I’m ever around an XXXX, I think I’m gonna
      get hit by lightning or something. I just don’t even want to be in the
      room with them.”

      Was the speaker religious or non-religious? Was the target of bigotry religious or non-religious? Three guesses.

      In the quote, the actual word used in place of XXXX was “atheist”.

      Take a look at the actual cases brought by the FFRF. Almost every one involves the use of government property, resources or authority to promote religion.* Neither the FFRF or any atheist I have ever met has a problem with people being religious or promoting their religion with their own resources, own authority, using their own property.

      * The exception is when places of business discriminate on the basis of religion, including violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

      We don’t want the state of Utah using schools to proselytize non-mormons. We don’t want Utah city councils discriminating against non-mormons in city services. We also don’t want schools in mostly protestant cities proselytizing evangelical christianity. We don’t want city councils in mostly protestant cities discriminating against catholics.

      Our country works best, and we as individuals have the most freedom, when the government stays strictly neutral about religion.

      Individuals can vote and participate in the political process, and should. But tax exempt churches agreed to stay neutral and should keep their word.

  • Pastor Chris

    Dear Rebecca,

    So far in the wider discussion (not only the respondents to your blog) I have heard very little from anyone who notes that the Church in general and in all its various denominational representations has a long history of speaking from the heart of faith into the mess of the real world.

    Jeremiah and other prophets were persecuted for it, but the record of their proclamations against societal evils has stood the test of time.

    What about the ministries of the various Catholic organizations and religious (e.g., the Little Sisters of the Poor) who have worked tirelessly against to bring hope to a hopeless world without words, and those in the Church who have received the calling of evangelization?

    Not to mention the work of many other Christians in medical missions, in founding hospitals, universities, and grade schools throughout this country; the works of mercy by the Salvation Army, the Methodists and many others, and Martin Luther’s insistence that the vocation of all secular rulers to care for their people is derived from the spiritual authority given to them by God. All of these run counter to the argument that seems to say that the government is gracious in granting “freedom of speech” to churches and religious organizations, and has the authority to limit it.

    The premise of that argument is hogwash.

    They may not like it – they may throw the prophetic voices in prison (or in mucky cisterns, like Jeremiah) – they may even kill them. But the premise of their argument is wrong on its face. It is not the government that gives the churches the right to exist – it is the Triune God we worship who gives the government the right to exist for the sake of the protection of all of the government’s citizens, and particularly for the protection of God’s people on this earth until He brings them home.

    • hamiltonr

      Wonderful comment, Pastor Chris. Thank you

  • FW Ken

    Surprise! Surprise! The Freedom from Religion Foundation is a tax-exempt non-profit.

    http://ffrf.org/about/getting-acquainted

    • Nick Winters

      Which can be incorporated around specific issues and does not actually promote candidates, just like every other organization is allowed to. No conflicts or hypocrisy there. Of course, if they are pushing for churches not to speak on issues like abortion, THEN the hypocrisy starts to appear.

      • FW Ken

        It would be interesting to see what parishes the FFRP go after on what issues.

      • FW Ken

        It occurs to me that some churches, such as the Episcopalians and the United Church of Christ, actively advocate for same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Unless the FFRP go after them, then they are clearly conducting a partisan campaign, with tax free dollars.

  • ortcutt

    There is a simple solution for churches that want to engage in electioneering. Write to the IRS and disclaim their 501(c)3 tax-exempt status. Tax-exempt status is a privilege not a right.

    • Nick Winters

      Yeah, this really comes down to “I don’t want to have to obey the law and want my government $$$.” If you have specific instances of lawbreaking from the other side, you should speak up and demand justice, but don’t pretend it justifies your lawbreaking. The IRS is there to catch people who are trying to game the system. Being forced to stop breaking the law is not “bullying”.

      • cynic728

        The FFRF group is trying to expand the definition and include issues which are not part of the Johnson Act; however, under this administration, anything goes.

    • FW Ken

      That’s fine, but you don’t get to define “electioneering”.

      • gimpi1

        Actually, I believe it has a definition. As the current law is written, I think it comes down to endorsing a candidate or position.

        • hamiltonr

          I’ve dealt with this quite a bit in my life. In order to violate the IRS regs, clergy must say “vote for John Smith” from the pulpit. It’s that specific. If they pose for a photo with a candidate and even write a letter talking about what a fine person this candidate is, even if this photo and letter are used in campaign materials and the campaign materials say “Vote for John Smith,” they are within their rights as American citizens so long as they don’t say vote for John Smith. They must specifically call people to vote for a candidate by name as part of their religious exhortation to violate the regs.

          What we’re seeing is an attempt to expand that into what amounts to one group of people trying to use the government to silence another group of people because they don’t like what what the group they’re trying to silence says.

          • oregon nurse

            Yes! It’s the same twisting of the 1st Amendment and the anti-establishment clause that turned freedom OF religion into freedom FROM religion.

            • Lark62

              It is impossible to have freedom of religion without freedom from religion. Ask catholic families living in Utah. Non-mormons fought hard to be able to send their children to Utah public schools without them being taught mormon beliefs, or being ostracized as outsiders during mormon lessons.

              It is not twisting the first amendment to stand firm against the use of government authority, property or resources to promote one religious belief as favorable versus others.

              Also, if an organization receives huge tax benefits and freedom from any financial reporting standards applicable to other organizations in exchange for complying with specific provisions, it is not twisting the first amendment to expect that organization to comply with those provisions.

        • FW Ken

          Nope, just candidates.

          It’s an easy Google, btw. I recommend you check it out.

  • hamiltonr

    Changed it. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Rick Connor

    ” . . . or use your faith to modify our laws.” Churches cannot vote to change laws–individuals vote. Are you saying that I cannot consider the implications of my faith when I vote? If I cannot enter a poll and vote according to my own conscience, which was in part formed by my faith, then whose conscience do I vote by?
    I thought the political process was all about unique and free individuals doing what they can to “modify laws”. I do not know how to keep my faith from not influencing how I think, behave or vote. I bet you don’t either!

  • Maine_Skeptic

    In the past few years, conservative groups like those that run the New American have learned that their target audience will believe anything they say, because we all know Christians don’t lie or distort the truth, right?

    Here’s the actual reality. The IRS had a policy of not enforcing the law with regard to churches. They’d essentially been bullied into this policy, because any church claiming persecution by the IRS was asily able to get a Republican lynch mob going with a couple of phone calls. Even the Church of Scientology was able to get the IRS to look the other way.

    The FRFF suit was targeted at stopping the IRS from this prejudicial policy. Under the new policy, the IRS is very unlikely to actively monitor any church, because it’s still not in their interest to enforce the law equally with regard to churches. The difference now is that the IRS will no longer admit they’re ignoring it when a citizen files a complaint that a church is breaking the law. They’ll have to at least pretend they’re listening.

    Practically speaking, there will be no change. Which is a shame, because you can get away with anything if you call yourself a church these days. (Ask Scientology.)

  • hamiltonr

    I have no idea what point you’re making.

  • hamiltonr

    I’m tired of the way it’s being mis-used to harass and intimidate people. It needs to be amended to stop the harassment and intimidation which is aimed at limiting people’s free exercise of their Constitutional rights to free speech. Groups like FFRF are just hate groups yapping about “rights” as a cover for what is in practice an organized program of harassment and intimidation designed to limit other people’s free expression.

    I’m not in Congress, so I’m not going to weigh in on language, but knowing Congress and their inability to do anything but run for re-election and one-up one another, you have no fears. :-)

  • FW Ken

    Actually, you told Rebecca that she should read the Constitution, which was not respectful at all. One suspects she is well versed in the Constitution, but doesn’t agree with your rather idiosyncratic take on it.

  • hamiltonr

    Now it comes out. Christians who have views different from yours — in this case, on the subject of gay marriage and abortion — should be harassed into silence by the government.
    It sounds as if your support for the FFRF and limiting Christians free speech comes from your disagreement over issues and your wish to silence those you disagree with.

    Now, to the charge that anyone who holds views that disagree with yours — in this case, supporting traditional marriage and refusing to kill people at any stage of their lives — is a “hate” group for holding those views. Frankly Jeff, that’s so over the top stupid that I’m not going to bother answering it. People can have ideas different from yours and not be hate groups. Period,

    Christians who hold these viewpoints and who take political action in support of them are exercising their rights to petition the government and participate in the electoral process that every American holds. The attempts to limit their free exercise of their rights because they hold viewpoints you don’t like is … dare I say it? … an attempt at tyranny.

  • hamiltonr

    What was your professor smoking? :-)

    “In reading Rebecca’s response I am highly skeptical she has ever read the US Constitution or the Bill of Rights. I on the other hand actually showed up for my Civics 101 class and better yet was not sleeping through the lessons.”

  • AnneG

    Reading some of these comments, I’m reminded of the saying, “We’re from the government. We’re here to help you.” That morphs into, “so you have to do as we say because we know best.” And finally, “Look at what they are doing over there. We don’t like it and we’re victims, so the government has to stop them.”

  • Dread Karl

    Lessee, FFRF sues pizza parlor over church bulliten coupons, FFRF intimidates another resteraunt into no more discounts for people that pray before meals… FFRF sues to have memorial cross for boy killed in auto accident removed because it WAS ON PUBLIC PROPERTY. Shall I go on, or has the hypocrisy of your statement been proven yet? Not one of these are “government” or “laws” but your beloved un-constitutional bully boys are attacking private citizens expressing their faith.


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