Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) appeared today on Truth that Transforms, the flagship radio program of Truth in Action Ministries, to push his Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act, which the Interfaith Alliance notes would allow houses of worship to engage “in partisan politicking,” such as endorsing candidates from the pulpit, “without losing their tax-exempt status.” Truth in Action Ministries recently produced a film likening the rule to Nazism, and Jones told host John Rabe that the tax provision is like “communism” and “socialism.”
The congressman also conflated the risk of forfeiting tax-exempt status with losing civil rights, saying that the IRS has eroded the “freedom of speech” in the U.S. Jones also said that unlike liberals, “those on the conservative side believe in freedom of speech and therefore they’re not reporting anyone.”
The last church to have lost its tax-exempt status was Randall Terry’s church which took out an advertisement opposing the election of Bill Clinton in 1992.
Rabe: In reality it also seems that in some ways the threats have outstripped the actual actions, no one should be threatened with the loss of their tax exemption for speaking freely but it seems like this is something that the ACLU and Barry Lynn and groups like that use to get churches to self-censor as well, it might be helpful for pastors to understand that if they stand up and are bold and speak the truth anyway, they may find that the IRS has their hands full trying to do anything about it.
Jones: I think you are right on that, John, I think it’s a law that is very difficult to enforce and in fact the Internal Revenue Service will tell you and they testified to this that they are dependent on a third party to report. Is that communism? Is that socialism? What is that?
Rabe: Yeah, it’s spying on each other.
Rabe: It does seem that this provision has been somewhat selectively enforced is it just my perception or is it reality that those on the conservative side of the spectrum seem to face more sanctions on this sort of thing than those on the liberal side of the spectrum.
Jones: Well if I can answer you this way I think those on the conservative side believe in freedom of speech and therefore they’re not reporting anyone. But I will say that to me, left or right, this should not be part of America, this should not be the intimidation of some law that was never debated that a group or an element can use this law to intimidate. John, that’s not America, you know that, I know that, you’ve been saying that, I’m just telling you this is one of those issues that ought to be repealed, let’s get it off the books and let’s return this country to freedom of speech.