Pulpit Freedom Sunday Confronts I.R.S. Rules on Tax-Exempt Groups

In an act of civil disobedience billed as “Freedom Sunday,” dozens of American preachers made explicit political endorsements from the pulpit . This puts their churches’ tax exempt status at risk, as the government demands that tax exempt organizations like churches refrain from electioneering.

This, I suppose, could be seen as a variety of tax resistance.

The preachers have organized and are taking this action in direct confrontation with the IRS. They are recording their sermons and sending this evidence to the agency, and they have a mutual aid legal fund (The Alliance Defense Fund).

They’re spinning it as a freedom of speech and freedom of religion issue; the government, on the other hand, sees its ban as a religion-neutral restriction on all tax-exempt nonprofits and says that the preachers are free to say whatever they want to say, but if they also want their churches to be tax-exempt charities, they have to follow the rules.

Be that as it may, the Freedom Sunday organisers intuit that they’re putting the government in an uncomfortable place by forcing it to parse sermons and go after congregations. The government would much rather avoid such confrontations. So Freedom Sunday is rubbing their noses in it trying to force them to react in some way, or to concede that they won’t enforce the law against churches — only one of the churches that participated in the Freedom Sunday event was investigated by the IRS and the agency soon dropped the case.

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