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Pulpit politics: Pastors to defy IRS

Some plan to endorse a candidate Sunday, challenging federal rules that limit partisan activity by tax-exempt groups.

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During sermons this Sunday, some 35 pastors across the country will tell their congregations which presidential candidate they should vote for, "according to the Scriptures."

Their endorsements represent a direct challenge to federal tax law, which prohibits tax-exempt organizations from engaging in partisan political activity.

The clergy have embraced that risk, hoping their actions will trigger an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, which would then enable a Christian legal advocacy group to take the IRS to court and challenge the constitutionality of the ban.

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a conservative legal group based in Arizona, recruited the pastors for "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" to press their claim that the IRS tax code violates the free speech of religious leaders.

"I have a First Amendment right to say whatever I want to say, and I've never thought it was appropriate that as a pastor I could not share my political concerns with the congregation," says the Rev. Gus Booth, pastor at Warroad Community Church in Warroad, Minn.

Mr. Booth will endorse Sen. John McCain on Sunday, and has already told his congregation that as Christians, they could not vote for Sen. Barack Obama due to his position on abortion.

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