Thursday, October 30, 2008

What do you think?

As a pastor, I often wonder what people think about these kind of things. I'd like to use my blog to generate some discussion on this topic, NOT to make enemies or push any agenda. I'm just curious. Please read this article and either comment or vote in my opinion pole or both. (By the way... I don't have a political speech ready to go for my next sermon. I love talking about Jesus Christ and His wonderful love for humanity. My other blog discusses my vision of mission and ministry.)

IRS Takes a "Wait-and-See" Approach to Pulpit Freedom Sunday
In 1954, the U.S. Congress amended (without debate or analysis) Internal Revenue Code §501(c) (3) to restrict the speech of non-profit tax exempt entities, including churches. Before the amendment was passed, there were no restrictions on what churches could or couldn’t do with regard to speech about government and voting, excepting only a 1934 law preventing non-profits from using a substantial part of their resources to lobby for legislation.
The 1954 amendment, offered by then-Senator Lyndon Johnson, stated that non-profit tax exempt entities could not “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.” Since the amendment passed, the IRS has steadfastly maintained that any speech by churches about candidates for government office, including sermons from the pulpit, can result in loss of tax exemption.
Historically, churches had frequently and fervently spoken for and against candidates for government office. Such sermons date from the founding of America, including sermons against Thomas Jefferson for being a deist; sermons opposing William Howard Taft as a Unitarian; and sermons opposing Al Smith in the 1928 presidential election. Churches have also been at the forefront of most of the significant societal and governmental changes in our history including ending segregation and child labor and advancing civil rights.
After the amendment, churches faced a choice of speaking Scriptural truth about candidates and risking their tax exemption, or remaining silent and protecting their tax exemption. Unfortunately, many churches have allowed the 1954 Johnson amendment to effectively silence their speech, even from the pulpit. Ironically, fifty years after the amendment passed, and despite the strict IRS interpretation of it, to date, there is no reported situation where a church has lost its tax exempt status or been directly punished for sermons light of Scripture. Nonetheless, the IRS maintains that pulpit sermons comparing candidates’ positions with Scriptural truth violate the Internal Revenue Code. Thus, many churches accept the IRS interpretation of the Code and become silent, avoiding these topics altogether.
ADF believes that the Johnson amendment is unconstitutional in restricting the expression of sermons delivered from the pulpits of churches. This initiative is designed to return freedom to the pulpit by allowing pastors to speak out on the profound and important issues of the day.
There are many reasons why the 1954 Johnson amendment violates the Constitution according to ADF. Here are some of the key reasons why ADF believes the amendment is unconstitutional:
The amendment violates the Establishment Clause by requiring the government to excessively and pervasively monitor the speech of churches to ensure they are not transgressing the restriction in the amendment. The amendment allows the government to determine when truly religious speech becomes impermissibly “political.” The government has no business making such decisions.
The amendment violates the Free Speech Clause because it requires the government to discriminate against speech based solely on the content of the speech. In other words, some speech is allowed, but other speech is not. The Supreme Court has invalidated this type of speech discrimination for decades.
The amendment also violates the Free Speech Clause by conditioning the receipt of a tax exemption on refraining from certain speech. Put simply, if a church wants the tax exemption, they cannot speak Scriptural truth when it comes to candidates for governmental office. This is an unconstitutional condition on free speech.
The amendment violates the Free Exercise Clause because it substantially burdens a church’s exercise of religion. The government does not have a compelling reason to burden religion in this way.
The IRS has taken a “wait-and-see” approach to the Pulpit Freedom Sunday. ADF senior counsel Erik Stanley told Tax Analysts that 32 churches participated in the event on September 28 and that it was a great success and was well received by the congregations.” Senator Charles Grassley commented: “A minister ought to be able to speak politically just like anybody else can. The only thing that I would say, a pastor can’t use the resources of a church or a nonprofit organization for political purposes.
Marcus Owens, an attorney with Caplin & Drysdale and a former director of the IRS Exempt Organization Division said, according to Tax Analysts, that the individual churches participating in Pulpit Freedom Sunday will likely face an audit and a letter asking them not to do it again.
Milt Cerny, formerly with the IRS and Caplin & Drysdale said he thinks it would have been more responsible for ADF to seek a meeting with the IRS to formulate guidelines for churches and religious organizations that would protect the right of free speech while upholding the congressionally-imposed restriction on political activity, according to the EO Tax Journal.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Fall Family Hike (Interstate Park MN/WI border)

We enjoyed a wonderful family hike at Interstate Park. This is the St Croix River by our new house. We live about 35 miles downstream from this lovely spot.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Love Autumn!!!!

Here are some reasons that I'm glad to live on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border! All I can say is "WOW Lord! Great job this year!!!!!!!"

Summac is my favorite
for fall color!