1400 Pastors Defy IRS Threat of Tax-Exempt Revocation
More than 1400 pastors stood up in their pulpits on Sunday and told the IRS, “We’re Mad at Hell and We’re not Going to take it Any More.” For nearly 60 years, the IRS and its liberal surrogates at the ACLU have threatened ministers with the lie that if they speak out on politics their church will lose its tax exempt status.
There are no constitutional prohibitions against churches speaking out on political issues or even endorsing candidates. We got into this mess when in 1954 a law was rammed through Congress by then-Senator Lyndon Johnson to restrict non-profit organizations (that IRS regulations would later include churches) from speaking freely on topics like politics and moral issues like abortion and homosexuality. The following is from the IRS:
“The ban on political campaign activity by charities and churches was created by Congress more than a half century ago. The Internal Revenue Service administers the tax laws written by Congress and has enforcement authority over tax-exempt organizations. Here is some background information on the political campaign activity ban and the latest IRS enforcement statistics regarding its administration of this congressional ban.
“In 1954, Congress approved an amendment by Sen. Lyndon Johnson to prohibit 501(c)(3) organizations, which includes charities and churches, from engaging in any political campaign activity. To the extent Congress has revisited the ban over the years, it has in fact strengthened the ban. The most recent change came in 1987 when Congress amended the language to clarify that the prohibition also applies to statements opposing candidates.”
This so-called ban is a direct violation of the First Amendment, and it’s vague enough to mean what anybody needs it to mean. The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the free exercise” of religion. This makes any prohibition null and void. The First Amendment also protects speech, press, and assembly, three things that churches do on a regular basis.
To threaten pastors, AU has mailed letters to churches claiming that the IRS “revoked the tax-exempt status of a Binghamton, N.Y. church for buying a full page ad in USA Today opposing a 1992 presidential candidate.” The letter goes on to claim that the federal courts upheld the revocation. These are lies.
The Church at Pierce Creek did purchase the ad, and the IRS did revoke the church’s tax exempt letter of determination. Here’s the rest of the story that most pastors and their congregations don’t know about:
Churches do not need a tax exempt letter to be considered exempt. The tax code grants an automatic exemption to churches. Many churches choose to get a tax exempt letter from the IRS that serves as proof that the church is exempt from federal income taxes but such a letter is not required and churches may hold themselves out as exempt without having such a letter.
Churches are not the creation of the State. Like civil governments, they exist in terms of God delegating to them limited jurisdictional authority.
If you are a pastor who believes in the freedoms outlined in the First Amendment and want to challenge organizations like the ACLU, AU, and the IRS, then declare to your congregation “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a Christian legal advocacy group, will defend you if any of these groups come after you.
Since 2008, ADF has been promoting the Pulpit Initiative. “The goal of the Pulpit Initiative is simple: have the Johnson Amendment declared unconstitutional — and once and for all remove the ability of the IRS to censor what a pastor says from the pulpit.”
Don’t be bullied. It’s time to take a stand for Jesus Christ. Your future and the future of your children are at stake. If you want more information, go to the Alliance Defending Freedom site.