November 17, 2006

Churches and Political Intervention

Americans United for Separation of Church and State recently asked the IRS to investigate four specific churches for inappropriate political activity. As you know, churches enjoy tax exempt status as long as they refrain from partisan politics. In other words, they are not supposed to tell their members how to vote.
“Unfortunately, some churches allow candidate endorsements from the pulpit, distribute biased voter guides and host partisan rallies,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Such blatant electioneering by tax-exempt churches flouts federal law and threatens the integrity of religion.”
As I have previously noted, I disagree that churches should be granted tax exempt status in the first place. It seems to me that such an exemption constitutes governmental support of religion. I would like to see the government support effective, reality-based programs instead. However, the issue here is one of enforcement of existing laws. I wonder how many churches break this law without consequences? Perhaps it is time to revisit the decision not to tax churches.

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