Religious Right Wants a Partisan Pulpit — But Hold the Taxes

As we’ve written about before, the Alliance Defense Fund is organizing a face-off between right-wing churches and the IRS over limits on politicking by churches:

“Christian ministers from California and 21 other states will use their pulpits Sunday to deliver political sermons or endorse presidential candidates – defying a federal ban on campaigning by nonprofit groups.”

The ADF and its partners want to turn right-wing churches into one giant GOTV operation for anti-gay, anti-abortion Republicans – all the while remaining 100% tax-exempt. Here’s a taste of what a partisan church would be like, courtesy an ADF ally:

“I’m going to talk about the un-biblical stands that Barack Obama takes. Nobody who follows the Bible can vote for him,” said the Rev. Wiley S. Drake of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park. “We may not be politically correct, but we are going to be biblically correct. We are going to vote for those who follow the Bible.”

That’s the sort of ugly partisanship that Congress sought to avoid when in 1954 it restricted all tax-exempt groups from directly supporting or opposing candidates for public office. Tax-exempt status was created to support charitable, religious, and educational undertakings – not partisan warfare.

Churches and their leaders are of course free to address public policy and mobilize around the issues of the day, including directly supporting legislation. The ADF’s claim that churches are being muzzled is patently false.

This weekend’s publicity stunt by the ADF’s partisan pastors may just result in some of the churches losing their tax-exempt status. Perhaps they could save themselves the effort and be honest with the public by simply reincorporating as political action committees.