Monday, November 7, 2005
Now, is it just me, or should right-wing churches around the country be quaking in their boots over this IRS action? Or does it just apply to views on the war that the federal government doesn't like? Be afraid.
The Internal Revenue Service has warned a prominent liberal church that it could lose it's tax-exempt status because of an anti-war sermon a guest preacher gave on the eve of the 2004 presidential election, according to church officials.
The Rev. George F. Regas did not urge parishioners at All Saints Episcopal Church to support either President Bush or John Kerry, but he was critical of the Iraq war and Bush's tax cuts.
The IRS warned the church in June that its tax-exempt status was in jeopardy because such organizations are prohibited from intervening in political campaigns and elections.
The church's rector, J. Edwin Bacon, told his congregation about the problem Sunday.
"It's important for everyone to understand that the IRS concerns are not supported by the facts," Bacon said.
Bacon later said he chose Sunday to inform the congregation because Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu was in attendance and because he believes a decision from the IRS is imminent. He called the IRS threat "a direct assault on freedom of speech and freedom of religion."
An IRS spokesman in Washington declined to comment Monday, saying he could not discuss particular cases.
Some All Saints members said they feared the 3,500-member church was being singled out for its political views.
So what does this mean for denominations like The Brethren — that are pacifist?
The Rev. Ed Bacon used to be dean of St. Andrew's Cathedral here in Jackson. A great guy, by all accounts. But more relevant to the IRS, All Saints-Pasadena is also home to the Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity, the group for LGBT Episcopalians. It has a reputation for being the most outspokenly gay-friendly Episcopal church in the country. That is most likely why it was chosen; it's a high-profile target. I strongly suspect that this is a carefully selected decision designed to create a chilling effect for other liberal churches--and only other liberal churches. Literally thousands of right-wing churches that ran on gay marriage and abortion in 2004, and one that asked all members who planned to vote for Kerry to leave, have received no threats from the IRS. Whether All Saints is successful in fighting the motion (as it probably will be) is most likely immaterial to the people who began this investigation; All Saints can afford to a level a challenge, but the legal fees are cost prohibitive for most liberal churches. This is comparable to when the comptroller of the State of Texas briefly tried to have a Unitarian Universalist church in the state declared to be a secular body because of its support of gay marriage. There are folks on the right who don't have any scruples, and will lie, cheat, or steal to forward their agenda. We already know those people are running the FDA and FCC. Now we know they're running the IRS. And maybe we shouldn't be surprised. Cheers, TH
- Tom Head
I know a lawyer that used to be a member of this church. He was no longer there during the Bush/Kerry election but he had been a part of earlier education sessions for parishioners and clergy on how to stay within the lines of the IRS and FEC regulations while still expressing their views and being active as a Body of Christ within the political sphere. From what I have seen, they walked that line but stayed in the clear. This is clearly a narrow use of regulations for political/censorship purposes and the Episcopal diocese will jump in with both feet. And yes, Ed Bacon is a heck of a guy. If I remember correctly, he hed been ordained as a Southern baptis and later became an Episcopal priest.
How is it that these people are being hounded by "Big Brother"? When the Catholic Church has used "funds" to pay off victims of child abuse committed by priest! Is paying people off and having them sign a non-disclosure contract "a not for profit" actitvity? This did not come from insurance, it came from their "general fund".
- Altered Boy