IRS to Target Churches

Posted on August 14th, 2014

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Air Date: August 14, 2014

Host: Vic Eliason

Guest: Erik Stanley

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Erik Stanley serves as Senior Legal Counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom where he is Director of the Church Project and Pulpit Initiative. He also oversees other litigation efforts to maintain the autonomy of the church and to ensure its freedoms are protected under the First Amendment.

For about 60 years, the IRS has been responsible for enforcing the Johnson Amendment that's part of the 501(c)(3) rules. This amendment deals with churches speaking on the issue of candidates and elections.

In a Minnesota case from 2008, a federal district court found that the IRS procedures for how they audit churches were unlawful. Congress had passed a law in 1984 called, 'The Church Audit Procedures Act'. This required that certain high-level officials sign off on church audits before the IRS does them so as to de-politicize any church audits. The federal district court in 2008 found that the IRS was not complying with the audit act and at that point the IRS simply stopped auditing churches until they could come up with new procedures for how to do so.

The IRS proposed some new procedures but never came up with new ones. Madison, Wisconsin's Freedom From Religion Foundation sued the IRS with the belief that it's unconstitutional for the IRS to continue to enforce the Johnson Amendment against general non-profit organizations but not to enforce it against churches. They viewed this as unequal treatment and a settlement in this case was announced recently.

What's happened over time is that biblical issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage have been labeled as political. Churches have then been told to remain silent regarding such issues as though the church wants to invade the realm of politics. Sadly the IRS has supported this false notion. The result is that many people think it's illegal for pastors to say anything political from the pulpit and for 60 years, our elected leaders have been given a 'free pass' from moral and biblical scrutiny by the church.

If you agree that pastors should be free to speak on critical issues and apply the Bible to the selection of our national, state and local leaders just as they would to any other area of life, you'll want to review this Crosstalk broadcast.

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