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Guest opinion

Freedom of speech, money and your soul

In 1954, federal tax law established and prohibited churches and tax exempt entities from endorsing or opposing political candidates.

A church pays no taxes for their buildings or the land they are on. They pay no taxes for the donations and charitable contributions it receives. A church pays income tax on the salary of its pastor and on any off-site property it rents to make money. Besides those two things, that elaborate church, sitting on that (often times) valuable land within your town, pays no taxes.

It pays no taxes for the roads its followers use daily. It pays no taxes for using law enforcement to route traffic during a funeral. It pays no taxes for a police department, fire department or any other public service it calls upon. It pays no taxes to help build better schools or pay teachers for the education of the children of its parishioners. It pays no taxes to help feed the hungry or house the homeless. It pays no taxes to the state, county, town that it will ask to close off streets for church festivals, provide emergency services, security or cleanup post-event.

That's fine. That is the agreement.

Even though the church does not provide anything financially to a town, many will argue it gives much more on a spiritual level. That may be true in many cases. I know a wonderful church in our town that truly preaches about peace, love, compassion and loving your fellow man. I've heard a sermon that actually focused on the tolerance of other religions (even Islam), focused on tolerance of other people (even illegal Mexicans) and talked about what Jesus really would have done in this day and age (not the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jesus, but the other one, the Arab-Jew, you know, brown hair and brown skin).

I know of churches that run soup kitchens, do job placement and build homes for the needy. There are many wonderful Christian organizations who take their religion seriously, unfortunately, there are many who do not.

We know other churches that gladly accept the tax exempt status, yet go against the only request that goes along with that, to not get involved with the endorsing or opposing political candidates. I know eight people, from eight different churches just in Arizona, who said their pastors either outright opposed voting for Obama, or called it a sin and told their parishioners they would have to 'go to confession' if they did so. One Baptist preacher, in Phoenix, was on the news for praying for our president's death, all because of his pro-choice stance.

How is this not 'endorsing or opposing a political candidate'?

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Some of them didn't say Obama outright. They would say that God is against 'the candidate who does not come out strongly against abortion', or 'the candidate who is not fighting for to the sanctity of marriage'. Of course, we all know that ever since the Evangelical Right got into bed with the GOP, Republican candidates need only shout No to Abortion, No to the Gay Agenda and profess their Love for Jesus, and this Trifecta of Conservatism, guarantees them the vote of the fearful, hateful and the uninformed.

**On a side note, I always find it interesting that a GOP candidate will make his anti-abortion stance a large part of their campaign, yet as we all see during the reign of Reagan, daddy Bush and Baby Bush, not ONE THING WAS DONE to stop or even slow down the abortion issue in America. I also find it interesting that the Sanctity of Life crew seem to have no problem with going to war with anyone and everyone they decide needs some 'democracy'. Apparently the Sanctity of Life only applies to the unborn, if you are born, you're screwed…but that's for another day.**

Last Sunday, September 26th, over 100 pastors decided to defy the rule of no political involvement on the third Pulpit Freedom Sunday. Stating that this law violates their freedom of speech, and that their endorsement or speaking against a specific candidate, was something they had to do as representatives of their particular faith and beliefs. They all agreed to send videos of their lectures, to the IRS, as a challenge to see if they will truly revoke their tax-exempt status.
Here's why this is funny.

These pastors (and others like them) are already preaching politically from the pulpit, the IRS having received 110 complaints in 2004 and 237 complaints in 2006. Much like the Tea Party patriots who drive on public roads, to a public park, to freely assemble and exercise their freedom of speech (all provided by our Constitution), then scream that their "Rights are being trampled on." You make me laugh.

Two things are going to happen on Pulpit Free Sunday, as these Free Speech Loving Mavericks pretend to stand up to a law that is benefitting them financially. With the voluntary videotaping, pastors are going to make sure they don't say anything that could get them in trouble. Thus, this is a wonderful day for those parishioners, who are interested in the love and compassion of Christ (rather than the fear-mongering and hate speech they may often sit through), to actually get what they came for.

Secondly, these churches who have openly preached against abortion candidates, gay marriage, single-families, other religions and teaching fear rather than the love of their god, will be driving (yet another) nail into what many of us already know exists within those tax-free walls, Hypochristianity.

Hypochristianity: Contraction of the words 'hypocrite' and 'Christian'. Christians who claim to follow the teaching of Christ but whose belief structure, values and/or actions directly contradict such a claim. [They] engage heavily in proselytizing and judgment of others whose beliefs differ from theirs…opposing things that go against their beliefs such as gay marriage, evolution, and other scientific law amidst wide amounts of ethical, scientific, moral, and logical arguments. ~ UrbanDictionary.com

If the fight against abortion and saving the sanctity of marriage is so important, it seems those in our society who exist solely on 'the strength of beliefs and ethics' should choose the route that allows them to say what they need to from their pulpit, even if it means they don't get to put as much money in their piggy banks at the end of the day, right?

Instead, we have a group of moral leaders who are not willing to turn down a chance to make more money, and at the same time, are not following the rule of law they have agreed to. As Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State puts it, "… tax exemption is a right, not a privilege."

Maybe these church leaders need to make a decision. Either they refrain from speaking politics from their pulpit and keep their wallets big-n-fat, or start paying their taxes, enjoy the Freedom of Speech they think they deserve (and in the process) start helping, monetarily, the communities they profess to love so dearly. Or is there a chance they will keep doing what they're doing? I wonder if they'll choose the more ethical route over the more profitable one.

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I won't hold my breath.

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1 comment on this story

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11 comments
Oct 2, 2010, 5:21 am
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Definitely don’t hold your breath on that one.

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