The Right Prepares to Challenge the IRS

It is no secret that, heading into the 2008 election, the Republican Party’s right-wing base is anything but energized about having to vote for John McCain.  Facing dim prospects, the McCain campaign is doing what it can to court the Right, as is the RNC, while Religious Right power-brokers are working overtime to get pastors involved all over the country. 

For instance, a few weeks ago, Kenyn Cureton, the Family Research Council’s Vice President for Church Ministries, appeared on Janet Folger’s “Faith2Action” radio program where he revealed their plans to encourage pastors to speak out leading up to the election and, in his words, “cross the line”:

 “The pastors need to speak clearly about it. I’ll tell you we are working with the Alliance Defense Fund on a series of sermons this fall for pastors to preach, so that they educate their people on the issues.

“We’re gonna be talking about the value of life, the value of family and the value of freedom, basically talking about abortion and stem-cell research,” he continued, “and then also about the gay agenda and then finally about our Christian heritage and how it’s being stripped from every corner of society. And then finally we’re gonna be doing a candidate comparison message that is going to ask pastors to cross the line.”

At the time, it wasn’t know exactly what FRC and the Alliance Defense Fund were planning, but today the ADF revealed that it intends to find preachers who are willing to defy the current tax laws and openly challenge the IRS:

A conservative legal-advocacy group is enlisting ministers to use their pulpits to preach about election candidates this September, defying a tax law that bars churches from engaging in politics.

Alliance Defense Fund, a Scottsdale, Ariz., nonprofit, is hoping at least one sermon will prompt the Internal Revenue Service to investigate, sparking a court battle that could get the tax provision declared unconstitutional. Alliance lawyers represent churches in disputes with the IRS over alleged partisan activity.

The action marks the latest attempt by a conservative organization to help clergy harness their congregations to sway elections. The protest is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 28, a little more than a month before the general election, in a year when religious concerns and preachers have been a regular part of the political debate.

As Americans United’s Rob Boston put it, “If a few misguided churches want to become cogs in a political machine, they can simply give up their tax exemptions and play by the same tax and election-law rules as everybody else.”   But the Right refuses to do that and has decided, instead, to challenge the constitutionality of the law in the court.

And given the current make-up of the Supreme Court and the likelihood that the next president will be placing one or more justices on the Court, it is quite possible that the outcome of this right-wing legal challenge, should it make it to the high court, will rest heavily on the outcome of the very election they are seeking to influence.