The Freedom From Religion Foundation, which frequently attempts to eliminate any vestige of religion from the public square has long had churches in their crosshairs and has now been given the green light to move forward with its lawsuit alleging that the Internal Revenue Service has failed to audit churches whose ministers preach politics from the pulpit.
While the organization may think its actions will cause concern among America’s pastors, the reality is just the opposite is true. The pastors are actually happy with the move, viewing the organization as somewhat of a reluctant ally in their quest to bring this very issue before the court for the past several years.
Every year a group of pastors take part in an initiative sponsored by the Alliance Defending Freedom titled Pulpit Freedom Sunday during which preachers specifically preach a message on what they believe the Bible says regarding current political issues. Following the messages the pastors then inform the IRS of their actions in an attempt to draw the agency to bring a case against one of them.
To date, despite the ministers providing the IRS with clear evidence of what they are doing, the tax agency has yet to open an audit against one of the churches. The pastors believe the reason for this is the agency wants to avoid a confrontation over the 1954 Johnson amendment which has been used to cause some pastors to remain silent on political issues, even if the issues have a direct bearing on commandments in the Bible.
For example, the Bible speaks very plainly in its condemnation of homosexuality. However, same-sex marriage advocates are now attempting to claim that the issue is a political issue and therefore if a minister speaks on issue he is engaging in politics not theology and thus the church should have its tax exempt status stripped.
The IRS attempted to dismiss the FFRF suit, lending credence to the ministers’ claims. However, last week US District Judge Lynn Adelman reinstated the suit.
The ruling was exciting news for Dan Cummins, pastor of Bridlewood Church in Bullard, Texas.
“For the past five years it has been the goal of Alliance Defending Freedom, through its Pulpit Freedom Sunday initiative, to challenge the constitutionality of the Johnson Amendment, which places restrictions upon churches and pastors to exercise their First Amendment rights,” he said.
“To do so, a church must be sued by the IRS, getting the issue into the legal system where it can be challenged – there must be real damages incurred or civil rights violated; it cannot be challenged under hypothetical circumstances. In the past 59 years, the IRS has not sued or revoked the tax-exempt status of any church. Apparently the IRS knows they will lose on the constitutional issue,” said Cummins.