IRS Surrenders: Time For Churches to Get ‘Political’

The jig is up. The news is out. Pastors across America have called the left’s bluff. The empty words “separation of church and state” – a phrase found nowhere in the U.S. Constitution – have lost their sting.

Yes, “separation” still applies, but only insofar as it requires the state to remain separate from the church. That is to say, that government not interfere with the free exercise of either speech or religion.

For decades, hard-left anti-theist groups like the ACLU, People for the American Way (PFAW) and Barry Lynn’s Americans United (AU) have employed a cynical disinformation scheme intended to intimidate clergy into silence on issues of morality, culture and Christian civic involvement – issues that are not political so much as they have been politicized, issues that are inherently “religious.”

AU, for instance, recently sent 60,000 letters to churches across the nation warning pastors, priests and rabbis that “If the IRS determines that your house of worship has engaged in unlawful intervention, it can revoke the institution’s tax-exempt status.”

That’s a lie.

Despite hundreds of thousands of threatening letters sent by these liberal outfits (and as many complaints filed with the IRS) not a single church has ever lost tax-exemption for socio-political activity – zip, zero, nada. Not even for endorsing candidates from the pulpit. The left has cried wolf far too many times. No one will come running. Especially not the IRS.

That’s because churches, unlike other nonprofit organizations, don’t need a letter of tax exemption from the Internal Revenue Service. Churches are constitutionally tax-exempt simply by virtue of existence. It’s automatic. The only way the IRS could revoke a church’s tax-exempt status would be to disband the church, which, obviously, the government has no authority to do. It’s simple. Pastors, if you get a letter from the ACLU, PFAW or AU, I suggest a singular use for it: bird-cage liner.

Keeping all this in mind, something I’ve long expected has finally occurred. A little over a week ago, the IRS ran up the white flag. That bureaucratic bully we all love to hate announced that, for the indefinite future, it is “holding any potential church audits in abeyance,” for violating its arbitrary “no politicking” rule.

This rule stems from the blatantly unconstitutional “Johnson Amendment,” which, in 1954, was introduced by then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson. At the time, Johnson was facing opposition from Christians and anti-Communists. He pushed the rule through in an effort to muzzle them.

Unfortunately, his scheme has achieved much success. That is, until now. I suspect the realization that it lacks constitutional authority to yank any church’s tax exemption for “politicking” has prompted the IRS to finally lay down its arms.

But there’s a back story. Since 2008, the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) has spearheaded a First Amendment exercise called “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.” Since then, thousands of pastors across America have boldly exercised their guaranteed constitutional rights by addressing “political” issues from the pulpit. This has included directly endorsing candidates. These pastors have dared the IRS to come after them and, not surprisingly, the IRS has balked.

Essentially, the goal was twofold. First, it was hoped that if the IRS tried, somehow, to revoke a church’s tax-exempt status, that church could sue and, once and for all, have the Johnson Amendment ruled unconstitutional.

The second possibility was that, rather than having the “no politicking” rule completely thrown out, the IRS would choose, instead, the path of least resistance – that it would simply do nothing. It has chosen door No. 2. Not only has the IRS done nothing, it has, at least for now, completely thrown in the towel.

The next step is to repeal the toothless Johnson Amendment. This will do away with any residual confusion. A Republican-led Congress and a President Romney could do just that.

Indeed, the staggering gravity of Tuesday’s election has weighed heavily on the hearts of spiritual leaders who, hitherto, have remained completely apolitical. Obama’s unprecedented attacks on life, freedom, faith and family have prompted the Rev. Billy Graham, for instance, to run full-page advertisements in newspapers across the country, urging voters to choose candidates who support biblical values of life, natural marriage, and religious liberty.

People are taking notice.

“This is unprecedented for the world’s best-known evangelist,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Billy Graham has always steered clear of politics. In reality, Billy Graham has merely raised his prophetic voice like any preacher should when biblical and moral values are placed in jeopardy by politicians.”

John MacArthur, a well-known pastor and author who, over the years, has spoken out against Christian political advocacy, has also had a dramatic change of heart. “I was amazed that one of the historic parties in the U.S. adopted the sins of Romans 1 as their platform,” MacArthur said of the DNC in a recent Sunday morning sermon. “This is a new day in our country. Parties that used to differ on economics, now differ dramatically on issues that invade the realm of God’s law and morality.”

”I am beginning to see more and more pastors waking up and realizing that biblical and moral issues are under attack and they have no choice but to speak,” noted Staver. “This isn’t politics; it is biblical and moral issues that have been politicized.”

In 1980, Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell, along with other venerable Christian leaders, was central to placing Ronald Reagan in the White House. Today’s socio-political stage is strikingly similar. Pastors are poised to do the same thing for Mitt Romney.

At the time, Falwell gave a rousing call to arms: “What is wrong in America today?” he asked. “We preachers – and there are 340,000 of us who pastor churches – we hold the nation in our hand. And I say this to every preacher: We are going to stand accountable before God if we do not stand up and be counted.”

Pastors, stand up and be counted. The IRS muzzle has been removed. The choice is clear.

You know what to do.

Now go and do it.

Matt Barber (@jmattbarber on Twitter) is an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. He serves as Vice President of Liberty Counsel Action.


  • http://FrontPorchPolitics.com/ Tim Brown

    Yes pastors, stand! Stand and proclaim that the Church Of Jesus Christ should not support an apostate "Christian" nor a polytheist as the minister of God, but rather should support a man that fears the true and living Triune God of Scripture, men of truth, hating covetousness (Ex. 18:21).

    • TheSunDidIt

      That would not be Obama because he's muslim. He's not even as "christian" as a Unitarian, who isn't Christian at all.

      • http://FrontPorchPolitics.com/ Tim Brown

        that's why is used the term apostate "Christian." He has claimed to be Christian but doesn't hold to Christian doctrine. Neither Does Romney.

    • Nicky

      What TRI-une God of Scriptures? You mean the judeo-christian teaching that there is more than one God? That all the people of the earth may know that YAH is God, and that there is none else. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD. Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord.

      Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. I will also praise thee with the psaltery, even thy truth, O my God: unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel. See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.

      Isaiah 43:
      10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

      Isaiah 44:
      8 Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.

      • PassTheWord

        1 John 5:7 | For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

        John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

        John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

        • PassTheWord

          This does not teach more than one God. Just God in three persons.

      • http://FrontPorchPolitics.com/ Tim Brown

        Apparently you don't even understand the doctrine of the Trinity or you would not have said, "You mean the judeo-christian teaching that there is more than one God." I suggest learning the doctrine before attempting to speak against it.

  • http://FrontPorchPolitics.com/ Tim Brown

    In addition the DNC wants to remove God from the platform, while the GOP becomes inclusive, allowing for various idolators to invade it so that God cannot even be defined biblically.

  • ShaneBarber

    AMEN!!!

  • TheSunDidIt

    They only threw in the towel now because they don't need to silence them now. The Sunday before the election was the last best opportunity to say something from the pulpit. They don't want crushed if Romney wins either so, they're running for cover early for survival.

  • simpletony1

    I also say AMEN !

  • TOO INFORMED

    Now...if only we the people can get the illegal 16th. amendment (taxaton) repealed just like the people did with the 18th. amendment (prohibition). In 1933 the 18th amendment was repealed with the 21st. amendment.

    • Phillip_in_TX

      We can take care of the 16th Amendment with the "Fair Tax." We also need to get the 17th Amendment repealed, and have the States appoint their Senators again. A lot of the crap that is taking place would have never happened if the States had been represented.

      • american joe

        Phillip. I just read the 17th amendment. In part it says: "The Senate..shall be composed of two Senators...elected by the people thereof, for six years..." What do you mean "appoint their Senators again"?

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/BW6SRPQ2672AHQ4PONKIQVUWM4 Tessie

          American Joe ... I was just thinking the same thing....Phillip, What do you mean, "have the states appoint their Senators again"? The people of the state for which they are running "choose" their senators in an election.

        • dbur

          The election of Senators by the people directly was added to the Constitution as amendment 17 in 1913. Originally the Senators were to be selected by the state legislators. (section 3)

        • Phillip_in_TX

          Originally, the States appointed their two Senators:

          U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 3. The Senate of the United States
          shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the
          Legislature thereof (the preceding five words were superseded by
          Amendment XVII) for six Years, and each Senator shall have one vote. . .

          Since the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913, the States have not had any representation in Washington D.C.

          It is also why the House of Representatives is referred to as "the
          People's House" since they were elected directly by the people.

        • Phillip_in_TX

          Originally, the States appointed their two Senators:

          U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 3. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof (the preceding five words were superseded by Amendment XVII) for six Years, and each Senator shall have one vote. . .

          Since the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913, the States have not had any representation in Washington D.C.

          It is also why the House of Representatives is referred to as "the People's House" since they were elected directly by the people.

      • Chachy

        Why? When there were no new powers given --- the code is for CORPORATIONS and 14th amendment citizens or those FREE MEN who want to be under the thumbs of dictators.

  • http://www.missiontoisrael.org/ Ted R. Weiland

    Had most pastors, churches, and ministries never petitioned (a form of prayer and worship) the government for the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt incorporation (by which the State was made the head of their church instead of Christ) in the first place, the IRS could have never buffaloed these ministers to begin with.

    • Phillip_in_TX

      Amen to that!

  • http://www.survivingurbancrisis.com/ Silas Longshot

    Pastors, if you have not yet spoken out, ask for forgiveness, because it's too late now. Your congregations have cast their lot with the devil, should they vote for 0bama. Those that resist supporing Romney because they feel Mormonism is a 'cult', ask yourself 'which do I prefer to rule this nation, more of the same anti-Christian, anti-American mantra you have seen for 4 years? Or a man of buisiness skill, of good morals and patriotism?'
    Go then, and vote tomorrow. May your concience rest easy, for you decide the fate of America.

    • http://www.missiontoisrael.org/ Ted R. Weiland

      Be careful that you're not voting out of fear of Obama rather than fear
      of Yahweh. Whether Obama and Romney, you're voting (among other things)
      for a murderer. Romney's current (expedient) position on infanticide
      does not exonerate him from being a murderer in the past. His current
      position endorsing the killing of a child in cases of rape alone make
      him complicit in murder. I don't know about you, but I think Yahweh
      hates murderers, regardless whether they've killed only one or more.
      It might be prudent to consider 2 Chronicles 19:2 . Also 1 Timothy 5:22 and 2 John 1:7-11.

      • PassTheWord

        In reality they are the same...

      • PassTheWord

        Are sins forgiven forgotten???

        • http://www.missiontoisrael.org/ Ted R. Weiland

          Murder can be forgiven; however, according to Yahweh's law (Numbers 35:31-33 and Exodus 21:14) there is not clemency from the death penalty for murderers. One thing is for sure, you don't make presidents out of them. And, don't overlook, even if Romney has repented of his former position, he's still promoting murder today.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/BW6SRPQ2672AHQ4PONKIQVUWM4 Tessie

    Now it's time for the people to wake up and take a stand against a lot of the "politically correct" garbage that has been forced on us. Can we do it? Yes, If we stand together as a group as the preachers did. WILL we do it? That remains to be seen....

  • http://www.facebook.com/countyguard Jeff Maehr

    The "exception" for churches is 508(c)(1)(a)... the exception (not exemption) exists, as this article states, without doing anything.

  • BOB

    Our role as believers is to figure out what things belong to God and those that belong to Ceasar. The original intent was freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.The Puritans who founded America defended Christian Theocracy and established Theocratic systems of government. But God was abolished from the Constitution which was ratified in 1788-89 and We the People became the new god. So we shouldn't expect any real change unless we repent as individual believers and cry out for another Great Awakening. Without the Lordship of Christ, Democracy leads to tyranny.

  • Mudpuppy

    Liberal churches have been involved in politics for decades. It only became a "problem" when conservative churches started doing the same thing. The hypocrisy of the left knows no bounds. It's about time this happened.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Doc-Smith/100002549106697 Doc Smith

    If churches want to involve themselves in politics they should never yell about "separation of church and state". All churches should not have tax exempt status. All donations should be tax deductible. When churches involve themselves in politics they should expect politics to involve itself in the church.

    • Skeptical_Boomer

      What in the heck are you talking about? I don't think churches have ever yelled about separation of church and state. That's a left wing lib war cry. They misread the First Amendment as freedom from religion rather than freedom of religion as well as Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 regarding the establishment of religion clause. Our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution were both based on Judeo Christian principles and our Founders regarded religion as an indispensable support to our Constitutional Republic. George Washington stated in his farewell address:

      "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

      John Adams stated:

      "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."
      You advocate taxing churches simply for speaking out on issues of morality in our political system. Their tax exempt status comes from a consideration for the charitable works they do not from an agreement to keep their mouths shut regarding politics. As i watch the moral rot occur in this country and the disgusting behavior of our politicians, I must agree with both President Washington and Adams.

  • jlbs

    NOW we hear about this after the last Sunday before the election? Where in the world was this information 3-4 months or more ago? My priest is very "shy" about saying anything political and I suspect it's because a far-left liberal retired priest attends Mass and the priest is afraid to say anything. You know how the libs are ---- pushy, pushy, pushy. Under those circumstances, it probably wouldn't have made any difference.

  • Rev_Ken_in_San_Diego

    "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." Tax free donations, acting as money changers, and preaching politics behind the pulpit are certainly not what Jesus was saying with this quotation. The church is a House of God to worship God, not a a weapon to coerce God's Faithful with threats of damnation to vote as the church/religion/cult demands.

    I will rejoice when President Obama once again takes the oath of office.

    • Mudpuppy

      "The church is a House of God to worship God, not a a weapon to coerce God's Faithful with threats of damnation to vote as the church/religion/cult demands."

      Tell that to all the liberal churches and the "liberation theology" nutjobs who have been doing exactly that for decades.

  • Rev_Ken_in_San_Diego

    You're a coward for deleting my post. I expect you to delete this one as well, but it does seem to me to follow that when someone disagrees with religion, there's no room for debate. Just like in the Middle East.

    • Mudpuppy

      Unlike the Middle East, no heads will be sawed off because of a disagreement.