• I have no problem limiting nonprofit and even religious fund-raising for political purposes. I do have a very powerful objection to prohibiting pastors from speaking to political issues from the pulpit, however. I worked for 40 years in the nonprofit sector and I am here to tell you that nonprofits are NOT shy about promoting political candidates and making it clear to their constituency who they ought to vote for, especially if the leadership of the npo leans to the left. At the same time the Obama IRS was threatening churches with loss of their nonprofit status if the pastor mentioned any political issues to their congregations. The Democrat Mayor of Houston even went so far as to demand copies of the sermons preached in local churches for the purpose of discovering if any pastor had preached against one of her new laws which had conservatives up in arms. She made it clear to pastors that to criticize her policy was to lose the church’s nonprofit status and that the mayor’s office would file a complaint with the IRS.

    The Johnson Amendment is selectively enforced. Make it about fund-raising only, I’ll go with you, but when pastors are gagged, then that’s damned unAmerican. Churches are protected by the Bill of Rights. If they start losing nonprofit status, so should every charitable institution in the United States. Nonprofits do have a role in helping educate the electorate and our political leaders. So do churches. It’s an equal role. If you see the protection of churches free speech as “diminishing” the role of nonprofits in political discourse, then you’re establishing a kind of official “religion” in violation of the Constitution. Atheism or nonreligious belief stands as equal to religion in having a voice. No problem. But to repress the religion of faith in favor of a belief system that has no faith is establishing nonreligion as the religion of the land.

  • Just_The_Facts_Maam

    Certainly we have all grown accustomed to the rules of play around the 501c3 IRS code for the general non-profit landscape. Why churches have this same exemption is less clear. I can only guess that their inclusion is rooted in an historical epoch where membership by the electorate was fairly high and it made political sense to include them. I also assume the theoretical consideration was that religious institutions, including local churches, would create at least as much social value as the denominated loss of local property tax dollars and attendant federal, state and local income taxes. In my community a small group of individuals who were members of two churches that would be best described as promoting a socially liberal theology started a rotating winter shelter to house homeless people on their premises when conditions are harsh. After many years, the more conservative churches gradually came on board (out of shame?). I see the politics of that and the result is very good for the homeless and the entire community.

    Why then, should taxpayers who do not ‘believe’ or have a different set of beliefs be expected to subsidize churches with no way of determining how their subsidy is being used? I have no trouble supporting churches when they “give back” in some fashion that can be observed. Too many churches, especially the big mega-churches in this area, are more exclusive in how they interpret the same christian texts, apparently, operating more like private country clubs. I question why the tax exempt status does not require or at least invite some obvious measure of effectiveness in terms of program execution or measured value like that quantified by the website Charity Navigator for non-profits. If churches are going to be tax-exempt there are a whole host of field-levelling measures that should be equally applied. Otherwise, pay your property taxes and rely on the fact that your members and contributors actually believe and don’t require a tax subsidy to exist.

    Unions and churches are the only two institutions that represent working class and small business people in an organized way. Unions are being systematically destroyed and that will leave only churches as an institutional refuge for progressive politics. If Trump isn’t just throwing this against the wall to see if it sticks as a diversion and is serious, churches (especially the many liberal ones) will become bases of support for all the atheistic, liberal and left-liberal groups who do not get a tax-exemption for political activity. Speaking as one of those, I may have to join a church and will get religion post haste.

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