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IRS agrees to investigate churches that preach politics after settling with atheist lobbying group

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  • A Quaker Brooklyn, NY
    Aug. 5, 2014 12:50 a.m.

    Tax exempt status is extended to religious organizations with the understanding that the organizations are engaged in the practice of religion. When a church starts lobbying for ballot initiatives, parties, and/or candidates, even if that arises from a religious belief, it has clearly stepped out of the religious realm and into the secular.

    There's no reason a person can't belong to both a church and to a political party. They each have a separate mission. Political parties, however, are not tax exempt.

    There is much a church can do that has a political effect without becoming a political organization. Community organizing, peace vigils, human rights work, championing the downtrodden, honoring sacrifices, these are all traditional activities of the peace church. Activities of churches that are less traditional, such as picketing soldiers' funerals, are also protected. On the other hand, funneling contributions to ballot initiatives, pledging support to candidates, not so much. There's a clear line between taking up a cause and engaging the mechanics of the ballot.

  • brokenclay Tempe, AZ
    Aug. 4, 2014 10:54 p.m.

    "Sure, we want separate church and state, but you can't say this, and this, and this inside the church walls, and also, you really should be paying the government tribute. That's not a violation of complete separation. But everything else, of course, completely separate."

  • Dr. Thom Long Beach, CA
    Aug. 4, 2014 10:00 p.m.

    So if "Black Protestant churchgoers are eight times as likely to hear about political candidates at church as their white mainline counterparts." is that where the IRS will start their witch hunt at the Black community and churches?

  • lynnea1 JEFFERSON CITY, MO
    Aug. 2, 2014 8:53 p.m.

    "The Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit group of atheists and agnostics who aim "to keep religion and government separate," filed a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service in 2012, claiming the tax agency didn't pursue investigations of religious organizations..."

    Isnt it ironic that the very thing they say is their aim, keeping church & state separate, is the very thing they're actually encouraging to have happen! Stick that governmental nose into that church-house! Personally, I think it's unconstitutional. People have the God-given right to speak in their church buildings with impunity.

  • ulvegaard Medical Lake, Washington
    Aug. 2, 2014 12:34 p.m.

    The article also stated that the law was suggested by Lyndon B. Johnson to target group which opposed him politically. This is much the same thing we have witnessed under the workings of the IRS the past few years.

    It is perfectly natural for churches to have political feelings; since so much of politics as of late seems to go right to the heart of many belief issues: Abortion; Contraceptives; Education; Self Defense and Family values. More often than not, it seems to me that those who oppose the view point of religiously minded individuals have much the same motivation as L.B. Johnson and the I.R.S.

  • Wacoan Waco, TX
    Aug. 2, 2014 7:02 a.m.

    @Eagle78

    I agree. Presidents from both parties are blamed for things they did not do, don't get credit for good things they do and take credit for good things they did not cause.

    @ExTBird

    I disagree with your assertion that the wall of separation between church and state goes one way. The state has no right to appoint leaders of my denomination or any other. It does not have the right to determine doctrine or other beliefs. Secondly, I don't obey the government. Through the electoral and other democratic processes we collectively grant the government power to enforce laws. I believe that you will agree with that statement but I will make it explicit.

    I do not buy into your view of the state. It is not omnipotent or omniscient; it is often not benevolent and it certainly should not be omnipresent. In short, it is not God. The secular, democratic state is a means of governance, not a religion.

  • Capsaicin Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 1, 2014 6:13 p.m.

    As a freedom of speech advocate, the 1954 Johnson amendment is a contradiction to the 1st amendment. It should be 100% acceptable to compare and contrast candidates, their voting records, and their personal lives, from the pulpit. I don't believe in clergy endorsed candidates though. I expect people to be able to think for themselves.

    Here's another part of the problem.... Political Parties. The Party System is so corrupt now, there's no way you can successfully "vote your conscience" without also supporting the corruption. Specifically I refer to party-lines non-moderate voting. Meaning you cant be a moderate in politics without suffering the wrath of the party if you don't vote along with them. If a vote happens to land outside party lines, the wrath of the party leadership comes down hard. Funding and support for future terms are on the line. You're alienated. Meaning...values and virtues are not as important as voting party lines. It's my opinion that members of the church should no longer associate themselves with either party.

  • The Caravan Moves On Enid, OK
    Aug. 1, 2014 1:57 p.m.

    @ Ender - Salt Lake City, UT "@Ranch, If it's so "secret", then why do you know about it?"

    Ha! Ha! Now THAT is funny!

  • ExTBird Springville, US-UT
    Aug. 1, 2014 12:08 p.m.

    SCfan,

    That "wall" goes one way for a reason. We obey the government. We don't obey your religion. The point of separation of church and state isn't to try and keep you equal. You're not equal. The government can interfere with religion if it feels it has to because they don't answer to your church leaders, your god, or your ficticious beliefs. The point is for you to know your place, and not step out of bounds and start making those ficticous beliefs law.

    If your religion wants to get political no one is going to stop them. Get into the ring if that's what you want. Just start paying your taxes accordingly. If you're going to play then you play by the rules, and pay your dues.

  • SCfan clearfield, UT
    Aug. 1, 2014 10:02 a.m.

    Kalindra Wow, the members of a church will act like Brown Shirts and will report on their congregations and get the IRS on them. Yeah, I can see how that would be good for seperation of Church and state. Not to mention how it would keep the congregations together in harmony. Yet it would not be OK for the Church leaders to warn about who in government is dangerous to their church and ask for the congregation to vote accordingly. How come when it comes to the "wall of seperation" you liberals so desperately want, it is a one way street. Government can interfere with religion, but religion is supposed to stay out of government?

    And by the way, the IRS is working for Obama. And apparantly he wants to change the way things have been done since 1954. Otherwise there would be no story here. That was my point.

  • Eagle78 Salt Lake City, UT
    Aug. 1, 2014 8:20 a.m.

    @Wacoan

    That is just the ugly, petty side of politics sadly. When Bush was in office Dems did it to. They blamed him for everything, and never gave credit when it was due.

    The truth is that no one can really understand what it's like to be President until you are sitting in that chair. It is one of the reasons that I have always believed that you should respect the office itself, and not necessarily the man. The right and the left held hands and led our country to where it is now. We love to blame everything on the other side, but I'd like to think most people are smart enough to accept that in the end it doesn't really matter if you're right or left... they both suck! :D

  • Wacoan Waco, TX
    Aug. 1, 2014 6:36 a.m.

    @Tolstoy
    I believe that SC Fan was blaming President Obama for agreeing to increase enforcement of the 1954 Johnson Amendment, not passing it. I might add that the agreement is not transparent and it should be particularly given his campaign pledge on transparency. In my opinion, the story is front page news because the IRS is one of the most important enforcement units of the government, it engaged in politically motivated actions with non-profits, and it agreed to a non-transparent change in enforcement policy.

    The best political response to the amendment would be its repeal. In deference to JoeBlow, tax considerations can and should be separated from free speech considerations.

    As a postscript, perhaps President Obama takes a little too much heat for things beyond his control. He is probably not responsible for the stone a truck threw up into my windshield a couple of years ago.

  • Counter Intelligence Salt Lake City, UT
    July 31, 2014 11:01 p.m.

    The entire concept of non-profits not being able to have political speech was implemented by Lyndon Johnson as a move to censor non-profits that were critical of him.

    I am actually shocked that the Supreme Court has not invalidated this affront to free speech: particularly when its implementation is so blatantly political: When was the last time a church promoting left wing dogma was ever investigated? (Jeremiah wright) Will the IRS also investigate atheist groups? Is there really any question regarding the hypocrisy and hate or who is truly anti-First Amendment?

    ordinaryfolks
    Its good that most churches dont emulate the intolerant left who have a propensity to call everyone who disagrees a hater, fundamentalist or bigot.

    Even though politically correct bullies think it works pretty well; alot of people can see it for the hypocrisy that it is

  • Eagle78 Salt Lake City, UT
    July 31, 2014 10:47 p.m.

    @Mexican Ute

    Separation of church and state is not something religious people respect in the slightest. It is really pretty simple. Separation of church and state either goes both ways, or it's meaningless. Religion can't hide behind it when its convenient and then disregard it when they feel like pushing their agenda. Which quite frankly is exactly what they try to do.

    The government going after their money is exactly what I have been hoping to see for years now. I have no problems with tax breaks for groups that mind their own business. Preach your fairy tales as often as you like, just keep it to yourself. I'm tired of having them forced down my throat. So are millions of other people who don't subscribe to your particular brand of fiction. You hate gay marriage so much? Great don't allow it in your religion. Hate and judge away my gullible friends. Just stop trying to manipulate the law into making your beliefs law that must be obeyed by all. If not? Goodbye tax breaks. Hello big payday for the US.

  • 1aggie SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    July 31, 2014 10:32 p.m.

    Two words: Prop 8.

  • SR71 Buena Vista, VA
    July 31, 2014 8:03 p.m.

    As a lifelong active LDS member, I know the rules about not endorsing candidates etc. But, if we really have freedom of speech, we ought to be able to, if we want (in other words, the first presidency ought to be able to, if it chooses), to endorse a candidate if we ever come to a point where they feel that is the right thing to do. For the IRS to try to discern how much of a preacher's preaching is religion and how much politics...I think that is above their pay grade.

    I realize that then some political organization could claim to be a church just to avoid taxes...my solution is to make both churches AND political organizations tax exempt. Anything nonprofit would be tax exempt. Furthermore, all the campaign contribution laws that are designed to prevent too much $ influence in politics may have meant well, but are also denying freedom of speech, and should be struck down.

  • Mexican Ute mexico, 00
    July 31, 2014 7:12 p.m.

    Not a good idea.

    "Live and let live" would apply here.

    Where is the seperation of Church and state that so many of our dear gay marriage advocates preaching for here?

  • the truth Holladay, UT
    July 31, 2014 6:50 p.m.

    This is scary,

    It is NONE of the IRS's (governments) business what we preach or say.

    Does the first amendment mean anything?

  • K Mchenry, IL
    July 31, 2014 6:24 p.m.

    Doesn't their nonprofit do exactly the same thing? Involve themselves in political matters. You just can't say vote for a specific candidate. Just like the atheists org that can say please protest the ten commandment catholic parish can say contact your representative and tell them what you think about that bill about contraception.

  • Tolstoy salt lake, UT
    July 31, 2014 5:42 p.m.

    sorry page not bag

  • Tolstoy salt lake, UT
    July 31, 2014 5:22 p.m.

    @SC Fan and others

    So now a law passed in 1954 is all a big left wing conspiracy by Liberals and Obama? there is a very simple reason this is not front bag news this law and people challenging various churches status is old news.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    July 31, 2014 4:42 p.m.

    After it is all said an done; the bottom line is that churches are international business corporations and their tax exempt status means others have to be taxed to cover the churches not paying tax. And churches like the Mormon church that have so many buildings that all benefit from police, fire, street service, etc pass the cost on to others to pay the tax.

  • Schnee Salt Lake City, UT
    July 31, 2014 3:33 p.m.

    The LDS church does not take a stand on individual candidates, it only involves itself in particular ballot initiatives. Now, is there an LDS ward somewhere where a Bishop gives a sacrament meeting talk that includes urging people to vote for Mitt Romney? Probably, after all people are flawed and there's a lot of wards so law of averages I'm sure someone's going to do something against the rules.

    It's much different than other churches where sermons can be a lot more political, and this goes both ways, with conservative evangelical churches, particularly the ones adamantly (to the point of organizing protests) against abortion telling people to vote for or against so-and-so, and you'd have to be naive to think the "souls to the polls" trips by black churches don't have some of them with preachers giving direction on how to vote. (By the way, when Democrats get angry about cutting early voting the sunday before election day, that's the reason, it's a popular day for black voter turnout).

    There's surely some churches on both sides going against the rules for tax exempt status.

  • Coach Biff Lehi, UT
    July 31, 2014 3:09 p.m.

    Ranch, what else would you do from a pulpit? Isn't that the proper place for "preaching". Would you deny a church's 1st Amendment rights? Not very progressive of you guys to even suggest that. I've come to expect that from "progressives" though. Do as I say, not as I do. I'm tolerant of your views, as long as they coincide with mine.

  • Coach Biff Lehi, UT
    July 31, 2014 3:06 p.m.

    Wow. I've heard some of the same critics of the church on these boards accuse those on the right side of the political spectrum of wearing tin foil hats. Sheesh. Pot, meet kettle.

  • wjutjck Taylorsville, UT
    July 31, 2014 1:24 p.m.

    The LDS Church to my knowledge has never told their members which candidates to vote for. Now if you are talking about beliefs regarding items that many feel are political. The church does encourage it's members to support views that are in harmony with gospel teachings - such as the sanctity of the family. If you want to know the church's views on the family, then read and study the Family Proclamation to the World. In every ward I have lived in around election time, a statement from the 1st Presidency is read over the pulpit encouraging the members to learn about the candidates and issues being voted on, and then to go and vote. Nothing is said specifically on how they should vote. And everyone is reminded that church buildings cannot be used for political gatherings.

  • Ranch Here, UT
    July 31, 2014 12:27 p.m.

    @Ender;

    Someone leaked a memo. I don't have the link on this computer but I do have it on another (I'll try to remember to find it later and post info on googleing it).

    It is a memo that details minutes from LDS meetings relating to every single state where an amendment was passed. It clearly shows the local church's involvement for a very long time in each of these efforts.

    Why don't you try to put aside your unwillingness to believe that your leaders may have been involved in shady dealings (secret combinations) and try to google it yourself. They're only men, after all. In a few years, the next generation of leaders will put out "essays" saying that the current crop was only expressing their "opinions".

  • Kalindra Salt Lake City, Utah
    July 31, 2014 11:55 a.m.

    @ SCFan: It always amazes me how powerful Obama is - according to you, he is responsible for a policy adopted in 1954, 7 years before he was born.

    As for how will the IRS know who to investigate - do you really think it will be that hard? Not everyone who attends a particular church has the same political leanings, and many who attend church feel the need to go home and post on Facebook or twitter what was discussed at church that day. All it takes is for one member to be offended and report it to the IRS or one person to post in public that the church leader said something related to who to vote for and that will be reported. If there is a significant number of complaints against one organization or individual, the IRS will investigate.

    @ patriot: What evidence do you have the Reverend Wright ever told his congregation who to vote for?

    Religion should be welcoming to all. Mixing politics with religion is a good way to drive people from religion.

  • SCfan clearfield, UT
    July 31, 2014 11:13 a.m.

    P.S. to Deseret News. This story should be headline news. Not just put back in the Faith section.

  • patriot Cedar Hills, UT
    July 31, 2014 11:01 a.m.

    this is pretty funny stuff. You mean to tell me all the HATE conservative churches (Jerimiah Wright) are going to be targeting by the IRS now? Dream on. The ONLY churches that the IRS is interested in are those who even remotely speak against Barack Obama. Those churches that bash conservatives are just fine...no problem-o! This is all been seen before in Communist Russia and the USSR as well as other Communist countries where BIG Brother is always watching any sort of negative talk against their poltical leader at the top and will dish out terrible consequences to all those who dare to speak freely (The Hungar Games). Don't think for a second that America hasn't stooped to that same level - it has and the recent IRS targeting proves it.

  • SCfan clearfield, UT
    July 31, 2014 10:57 a.m.

    This should garner hundreds of posts, as it is one of the most dangerous policies I've yet heard of being done by our federal government. Under Obama, I might add.

    So, what is supposed to happen? Government undercover cops (maybe you would want this job Ranch) go to churches, sit there and listen for someone saying something political? This strikes me as the United States getting closer and closer to totalitarian government. And the gaul of them, right after this IRS and Lois Lerner stuff. And by the way, if one were to really want to enforce this, the first churches they should look at are ones in which people like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Jeremiah Wright go to. The point is, if they want to preach politics from the pulpit, then fine. Because there is no way to draw a line between pure religion and pure politics. They cross over all the time. Just read the scriptures, and you will see that.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    July 31, 2014 10:50 a.m.

    @Coach Biff,
    If you are not aware of your church's desire for not only world domination, but also universal population and domination: then you just do not know your religion.

  • Ender Salt Lake City, UT
    July 31, 2014 10:45 a.m.

    @Ranch
    If it's so "secret", then why do you know about it?

    Please stop spreading lies, misinformation, and mistrust.

    ...unless you'd actually like to disclose some of your sources? (verifiable ones, please)

  • Ranch Here, UT
    July 31, 2014 10:06 a.m.

    @Coach Biff;

    "Render unto Caesar...". Playing politics is a "Caesar" thing, churches that want to play politics (preach from the pulpit) are acting as political organizations and not religious organizations.

    As for your not being a "secret society", are you aware of the "secret" involvement of Utah's leading church in political maneuvers designed to deny one group of citizens equality under the law? They secretly acted in every single state that successfully passed amendments to that effect. I'd call that quite apparent as a "secret society" or as the BOM put it "secret combinations".

  • Coach Biff Lehi, UT
    July 31, 2014 9:14 a.m.

    Yes, ordinary, we are a secret society bent on world domination through whisper campaigns and social pressure. Groupthink is what we are all about. We don't have diversity of thought in our church. Oh, no. Harry Reid and Mike Lee are of the same mind. Their differences are all a smoke screen. Pathetic.

  • ordinaryfolks seattle, WA
    July 31, 2014 8:32 a.m.

    Why don't the fundamentalist churches emulate the LDS? Use the whisper campaign to channel contributions, and use social pressure to get adherents to vote "correctly".

    Works in Utah pretty well.

  • Coach Biff Lehi, UT
    July 31, 2014 8:28 a.m.

    Ranch, What is a "political" organization? Seems pretty vague in your description there.

  • Ranch Here, UT
    July 31, 2014 8:03 a.m.

    If you want to be a political organization then pay taxes. It's pretty simple.

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    July 31, 2014 5:54 a.m.

    Easy fix.

    Lower tax rates and lose ALL tax deductions.

    Problem solved.

  • Hamath Omaha, NE
    July 31, 2014 4:12 a.m.

    "Teach people correct principles then let them govern themselves" should be thought of more in my opinion by those who think they need to use religious forums to teach their political views. If they want to influence someone one way or another. Do it by teaching truth and let the people make their own conclusions. After all... you might be wrong in how you are judging the other side! Teach truth and let the cards lay where they will.