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Antiwar Sermon Could Cost Church Its Tax-Exempt Status

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posted on Sep, 22 2006 @ 11:48 PM
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Back in 2004, when Bush and Kerry were campaigning, the All Saints Church, which is known for liberal activism, had a sermon delivered by Rev. George Regas titled"If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush." Under the federal tax law, churches cannot endorse candidates or political parties. The church was warned and rerimanded by the IRS, but apparently did not heed their warnings. The IRS now wants documents from the church and a meeting with the rector.
 



www.freep.com
PASADENA, Calif. -- With the campaign season in full swing, a church is in an escalating dispute with the IRS over an antiwar sermon -- delivered two days before the 2004 presidential election -- that could cost the congregation its tax-exempt status.

Religious leaders on both the right and left are watching, afraid the confrontation at All Saints Church will compromise their ability to speak out on issues such as abortion and gay marriage during the midterm elections.

The dispute at All Saints, an Episcopal church with a reputation for liberal activism, centers on a sermon titled "If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush," delivered by the Rev. George Regas. He didn't endorse a candidate but said Jesus would condemn the Iraq war and Bush's doctrine of preemptive war.





Please visit the link provided for the complete story.


Most all religions are against war, having a sermon about war was not the problem that the IRS had with the sermon, but when he said "Jesus would condemn the Iraq war and Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive war", is where the church's sermon crossed the line.

I do believe church's should remain separate from the government (just look at the problems in the mid-east where religion runs the gov't). Churches can have sermons about political topics but I don't think they should endorse or "bash" politicians to sway their congregations vote.

[edit on 22/9/06 by Keyhole]




posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 10:23 AM
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There is a simple solution. Church's should stop being tax-exempt. In today's society, Church's are as much a business as any other. Why should they be able to avoid paying taxes?



posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 11:27 AM
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My concern is that the standard be equitably applied. If All Saints is going to be investigated by the IRS and have its tax exempt status put at risk when it didn't endorse a candidate or tell its congregation how to vote, then Pastor John Hagee and Cornerstone should be investigated for all his comments about Clinton and the Democrats.

But will that happen? Not under this administration, imo.

Btw, I started a thread on this subject in Religion in Government on PTS. link I'm glad to see the story voted up as an article on ATSNN.



posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 12:37 PM
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Churches, of all denominations, have long been at the center of social and political change in the world. For a church of any sort to be threatened in this, or any other fashion, is plainly wrong. The IRS, and whoever sicced 'em on this church, should be told in no uncertain terms to back the (bleep) off.

Whether I agree or disagree with the sermon is moot. The fact that freedom of speech is at issue here, not to mention certain church-state issues.

This issue and others raise questions as to where we, as a nation, are headed.



posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 01:08 PM
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Originally posted by Icarus Rising
If All Saints is going to be investigated by the IRS and have its tax exempt status put at risk when it didn't endorse a candidate or tell its congregation how to vote


I believe that by saying that "Jesus would condemn the Iraq war and Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive war", the sermon turned into an endorsement for Kerry by saying the congregations savior Jesus would condemn Bush.

Here is a summary of the political restrictions on churches they must abide by to maintain their tax exemption.

First Amendment Center

Restrictions on religious groups

In order to maintain tax-exempt status, churches, like other 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, must forgo certain activities. Specifically, 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from engaging in excessive political lobbying and any political campaigning. According to the IRS, Sec. 501(c) of the IRS Code requires that a tax-exempt religious organization “may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate at all in campaign activity for or against political candidates.”


Church's should have the ability to help their congregation decide how to vote by there teachings in the church of morals and their beliefs to help their congregation make their own decision.

Belief in a persons faith can run very deep, a church endorsement of a candidate might easily sway a person in the congregations vote simply because of their respect of their church and faith. It should be up to an individual to make their own decision on who they think would represent them best.



posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 01:16 PM
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Who decides what constitutes "substantial" and "participation" is? It seems to me that a free society, such as ours is, should put any sort of limit on political speech. I have real problems with trying to shut down speech of any sort. Churches have been and still are, I hope, the conscience of our country, and a catalyst for change. Anything that hinders this is morally reprehensible.



posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 01:25 PM
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It seems to me that a free society, such as ours is, should put any sort of limit on political speech.


Oh please stop trying to water down the issue, this is about separation of church and state, and the tax exemption statue, the concept is a simple one, we wont tax as long as you stay out of government topics, when one breaks their obligations then there is nothing to debate. IMO ALL churches should loose their tax exempt status. It was a fine and dandy concept for the time but it just does not work anymore.



posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 01:40 PM
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The issue is gov't. intrusion into issues of free speech. This particular issue is just one way of doing it. IRS investigating a church? As far as losing tax exempt status? I've no issue with that in the least. I agree completely. My issue is with what on the surface appears to be a blatant attempt by entity unknown to silence discent by means of the IRS.



posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 01:54 PM
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Originally posted by seagull
Who decides what constitutes "substantial" and "participation" is? It seems to me that a free society, such as ours is, should put any sort of limit on political speech. I have real problems with trying to shut down speech of any sort. Churches have been and still are, I hope, the conscience of our country, and a catalyst for change. Anything that hinders this is morally reprehensible.


In 2001 complaints were brought to Congress that changed the law so that church's were allowed to campaign for candidates as long as it wasn't a substantial part of church activities. It failed.

Also in 2001, a poll was taken of clergy that found that 77% of the clergy did not approve of this new bill that they tried to pass, saying, "restricting churches’ ability to campaign from the pulpit protects the integrity of both the church and the political process."

Source

Some critics have complained that restricting a church’s right to engage in political campaigning infringes on its First Amendment rights to both free speech and free exercise of religion. In 2001, these complaints were brought to Congress. Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr., a Republican from North Carolina, introduced the “Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act,” which would amend the tax code to allow churches to engage in political campaigning for candidates as long as such actions “were not a substantial part” of the churches’ activities. After failing to pass, the bill was reintroduced in 2003 and again in 2005. The 2005 bill was modified to focus on the actual content of presentations made during worship time.

Proponents of this bill say it is needed so that churches may function in their prophetic role by encouraging parishioners to vote according to the dictates of their faith. They claim the church has a long history of political activity, including campaigning, and that the restrictions on campaigning were not introduced into the tax code until 1954.

Opponents say restricting churches’ ability to campaign from the pulpit protects the integrity of both the church and the political process. They also point out that most clergy do not support the bill (77% disapprove of it, according to a 2001 Gallup/Interfaith Alliance Foundation poll) and that it is based on a poor understanding of current law. Currently, churches may speak out on social issues, but they cannot mention or campaign for specific candidates by name.



posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 02:09 PM
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In a sermon two days before the 2004 election, Regas did not urge parishioners to support President Bush or challenger John Kerry but was critical of the Iraq war and Bush's tax cuts, Bacon said in an interview last November when the investigation was announced.

"He explicitly said, 'I am not telling you how to vote.' That is the golden boundary we did not cross," he said.

link


To me, this is a political issue plain and simple, not a separation of church and state issue, just the right trying to stay in power by muzzling the left, where ever and how ever they can. That is what makes it wrong. It is a free speech issue twisted for political gain.



posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 02:14 PM
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There may be something to the idea of separating churches from politics to maintain a kind of nuetrality if you will. Speaking out on social issues is where the focus of churches should be...but all too often social issues become political issues, and the other way around too.

Campaigning from the pulpit is not right, it's going to happen. Preaching against a social injustice, that's also going to happen. We have to take the bad, along with the good. Any sort of attempt to stop the former, is IMHO, going to damage the latter.



posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 03:29 PM
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Originally posted by Icarus Rising


"He explicitly said, 'I am not telling you how to vote.' That is the golden boundary we did not cross," he said.

link


I tried your link but could not find the article. I found the written transcript of the sermon that is in question on the "All Saints Church" website.

Transcript of sermon

I could not find the quote from the news article that you provided though in the transcript.

I did find these quotes in the sermon "If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush" though, (I had to type the quotes out from a PDF transcript because I couldn't figure out, or PDF doesn't let you, cut and paste)

Quote #1
"Jesus continues,'Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has lead to disaster.'
"It will take years for the widely felt hostility in Iraq and around the world to ebb. The consequences of your arrogance, accompanied by certitude that the world's most powerful military can cure all ills, should be burned into America's memory forever."

Quote #2
"Jesus turns to President Bush again with deep sadness. 'Is what I hear really true? Do you mean you want to end a decade-old ban on developing nuclear battlefield weapons as well as endorsing the creation of a nuclear 'bunker-blaster' bomb? Are you really going to resume nuclear testing? That is sheer insanity."

Quote #3
"When you go to the voting booth on Tuesday, take with you all that you know about Jesus the peacemaker. Take all that Jesus means to you. Then vote your deepest values."

After what he thought Jesus would say to Bush in the first two quotes, then ending the sermon with that third quote, how can you say this wasn't an endorsement for Kerry. At least that is how I see it and I guess the IRS sees it.

(Please don't let this become a Bush bashing tirade, just would like your input as to whether you believe the sermon crossed the line and was trying to influence the congregation to vote for Kerry.)

I do believe THIS sermon was trying to endorse Kerry and influence the congregation to vote for Kerry by Bush bashing using a religious figure to get his message out.



[edit on 23/9/06 by Keyhole]


df1

posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 03:55 PM
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Originally posted by Keyhole
I do believe THIS sermon was trying to endorse Kerry and influence the congregation to vote for Kerry by Bush bashing using a religious figure to get his message out.

Government does not belong in religion and religion does not belong in government. Im pretty sure that one could just as easily make a similar case against some right wing clergy for endorsing bush. Imho it is not possible for the IRS or any government agency to make these types of judgements in a non-partisan manner.

This attempt at muzzling clergy violates freedom of speech provision in the first amendment.



posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 04:00 PM
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We should all support removing the tax exemption status of churches and this will be a non issue, oh but wait, some churches want their cake and to eat it too.



posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 04:43 PM
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Here are some more quotes from the text of the sermon.



Jesus does win! And I don’t intend to tell you how to vote.

Yet I want to say as clearly as I can how I see Jesus impacting your vote and mine. Both Senator Kerry and President Bush are devout Christians—one a Roman Catholic and the other a Methodist.

“President Bush, Senator Kerry: will you save us from all this suffering. But God’s only hands are yours and all who call upon my Name. In the midst of great suffering, I call out to you; ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the Children of God.’ ”

When you go to the polls on November 2nd—vote all your values. Jesus places on your heart this question: Who is to be trusted as the world’s chief peacemaker?


I have to say after reading the entire sermon that the Pastor challenged Kerry on his values just as much as he challenged Bush. Then he challenged his congregation to vote their conscience on whom they thought would be the peacemaker.



posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 07:55 PM
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I would put money down that if the pastor at that church had given a pro-war, pro-republican, pro-Bush sermon they wouldn't have heard a peep from the IRS. There have been repeated instances of this administration, via the FBI, the Pentagon and the IRS going after their critics and opponents.



posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 08:09 PM
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That's what I'm talking about, and it isn't right, it isn't fair, and it isn't just. It is, however, indicative of the tactics used by this administration against their critics, and the issue goes straight to the top of the team.

Maybe the real issue highlighted by this situation is the fact that politics and morality have become autonomous spheres.

[edit on 23-9-2006 by Icarus Rising]


df1

posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 08:11 PM
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Originally posted by grover
going after their critics and opponents.

It goes much further than punishing opponents, this faith based '(choose your program)' is also used to reward supporters with contracts, grants and such. The democrats should be screaming from the rafters on this issue, but they are generally silent except for some token complaints. Dems are silent because when they come to power they get to control the faith based graft and the IRS. Obama is already playing a spiritual tune.

Conservative christians will come to rue the day bush put this faith based corruption into practice. Remember Waco?

[edit on 23-9-2006 by df1]



posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 08:50 PM
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this is true DF1... its poison all the way across the board...my mother bless her evil little heart watches things like the 700 club and old time gospel hour from her room in the nursing home and they are blatently political but they are pro-war, pro-republican and pro-bush so they are unmolested. It is the decent conservative churches (and there are plenty out there) and the decent liberal ones that will pay the price for this kind of meddling. The founding fathers knew hwat htey were doing when they seperated church and state...200 years history from the 1520's through the early years of the colonies taught them what happened when the two intermingled.



posted on Sep, 23 2006 @ 09:26 PM
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So how exactly did the IRS find out about it, does the ogvernment put
spies in Liberal churches (and other Liberal meeting placs), so they
can punish them for having different views?

I'm all for getting rid of the tax exempt status of churches and the like,
I don't se why they were ever given it in the first place.

If anything, the IRS should be looking into the churches where people
preach the annhialation of people different from them, and the ones who
fund the destruction of the dome of the holy rock.



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