Back in 2008, The Alliance Defending Freedom launched a project called Pulpit Freedom Sunday that encouraged pastors to explicitly discuss political issues and candidates during their Sunday sermons in an effort to provoke the IRS into revoking their church’s tax-exempt status so that the ADF could then take the IRS to court in order to challenge regulations prohibiting tax-exempt churches from engaging in direct, partisan political activism.
Among the pastors who agreed to participate was Jody Hice, a right-wing radio host who is now the GOP nominee for an open House seat from Georgia, who openly brags about his involvement on his campaign website:
In September 2008 – and in years since, Dr. Hice joined with pastors across the nation in challenging an IRS code that he considers an attack upon religious liberty. The IRS threatened churches with loss of tax-exempt status and with criminal sanctions if political issues were addressed from the pulpit. Hice took his bold stand by formally endorsing a candidate in a Sunday message and sending a copy of it to the IRS. The IRS backed down.
This Pulpit Freedom Sunday effort has taken place every year since 2008 and the IRS has consistently refused to take action against any of the churches or pastors who participated, much to the dismay of church-state separation organizations.
Eventually the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed its own lawsuit against the IRS, seeking to compel the agency to enforce these regulations and then withdrew the lawsuit after the IRS convinced the FRFF that it had not been ignoring the issue.
As Sarah Posner explained today, this latest development is now being spun by the Religious Right to claim that the IRS is colluding with atheist groups in order to target and persecute churches.
Among those fuming about this supposed persecution is none other than Jody Hice, who spent an entire radio broadcast last week declaring that it is a violation of the separation of church and state and accusing the IRS of threatening, bullying, and intimidating Christians into silence:
Of course, the entire point of the Pulpit Freedom Sunday was to get the IRS to take action against churches so that ADF could sue. And now that it looks like the IRS might actually do the very thing that ADF has been trying to provoke it to do for several years, Hice is livid even though he has personally participated in the effort to bring about this very result!