Pharyngula

Shoulda gone to church today

Today is Pulpit Freedom Sunday, that day when the wingnut churches were all planning to preach endorsements of political candidates in defiance of the restrictions imposed on them by their tax-exampt status. I hope the IRS harvests a windfall here — it’s simply absurd that they can demand freedom from taxation because they are religious organizations caring for the spiritual needs of their flocks, and then turn around and demand that they also be given the right to be a political organization. It’s one or the other. Let the preachers preach for McCain/Palin, but not on the government’s dime.

The organizers of Pulpit Freedom Sunday are convinced that the protest will result in a court challenge to the law. Mr. Stanley said the law was so unclear that, “I anticipate getting to federal court, certainly the appeals court.” But Robert W. Tuttle, a professor of law and religion at the George Washington University Law School, found that unlikely.

“It’s settled law,” Professor Tuttle said. “People can unsettle law that’s settled, but I think that it is very, very unlikely that a lower federal court would reach any other conclusion except that religious organizations have no constitutional right to engage in political speech while accepting deductible contributions.”

Speaking of settled law, wouldn’t it be nice to really shake things up and strip all churches of their tax exemptions? I know there’d be an immediate roar of protest from all churches everywhere that would have some political cost, but after 9/10ths of the churches fold, and after cities enjoy the sudden filling of the voids in their municipal tax base, and after the financial crisis is resolved, we’d be better off.

Comments

  1. #1 Ron Sullivan
    September 28, 2008

    It does seem that many people’s definition of “religious freedom” includes the right to do any damned thing they want to, for free, if they call it “religious.”

    Oh–also never to be challenged on any damned thing; never mind being laughed at.

  2. #2 Zeno
    September 28, 2008

    Your link folds back on itself, PZ. I think you meant to refer to your earlier post:

    Looking forward to 28 September

    A date that will live in infamy. Or something like that.

  3. #3 raven
    September 28, 2008

    The IRS almost never prosecutes “churches” that endorse and work for Theothuglican candidates.

    Palin’s pastor Kalnin has said in church that anyone voting for Gore, Democrats, or Kerry are going to hell. A clear violation of the law, captured on video and widely disseminated on Youtube, and nothing happened to him, or her.

    I’m always skeptical of pastors who claim that god wants his worshippers to send him your money, your teen age daughters, and vote for right wing kooks.

  4. #4 JasonTD
    September 28, 2008

    To be fair, PZ, you should note that there will be plenty of churches preaching for Obama also. Religion does not hold sway over the politics of the Democratic Party anywhere near the extent it does the Republicans. However, it would be naive to think that there aren’t churches (especially with large African-american congregations) stumping for Obama from the pulpit.

  5. #5 Janine ID AKA The Lone Drinker
    September 28, 2008

    I heard an interview with one of the pastors leading this campaign on this week’s On The Media. The pastor claimed that the IRS gets to determine what a pastor can say, in other words, the government gets to dictate what the pastor can say. Thus, the government interferes with the teaching of the Bible.

    Funny how he avoids saying that the only thing they would lose is their lose of tax-free status. Hardly a case of lose of freedom of speech. It is merely a lose of money.

  6. #6 Mr Twiddle
    September 28, 2008

    “Tax the Churches” – Frank Zappa

  7. #8 raven
    September 28, 2008

    The pastor claimed that the IRS gets to determine what a pastor can say, in other words, the government gets to dictate what the pastor can say. Thus, the government interferes with the teaching of the Bible.

    Since when does the bible say Vote for Palin/McCain or end up in hell? I missed that chapter. The guy is lying and the bible does have something to day about that. Not that he cares.

  8. #9 Richard Harris
    September 28, 2008

    The power of religion, arguably, lies in its supposed relationship with morality. Science is showing that morality is hard-wired into us. People of all cultures have broadly similar responses to moral dilemmas, according to research, and this is independent of their religious affiliations. Culture, of course, imposes a degree of moral relativism. The conclusion is that morality does not depend upon religion, although it may be influenced by it.

    Along with ridiculing religion, we should also drive a wedge between religion and morality. This is quite a soft target, really, because religious morality is, (or more correctly, should be), based, ultimately, upon old, (sacred), texts. This introduces a certain amount of inflexibility into religiously derived morality. After all, civilized, reasonable people do not think that adulterers should be stoned to death. In the Christian bible, there are other barbaric sanctions, & misogyny. And the ten commandments are risible.

    As the scientific understanding of human morality demonstrates that it is not dependent upon religion, the influence of this superstitious nonsense should be weakened. We should do our bit to reinforce this process.

  9. #10 Jelle Waltman
    September 28, 2008

    I am not from the USA, but why exactly does the church have the exemption of paying taxes? Aren’t Religion & State strictly separated in the US of A?

    btw. 1st post here, I learned about it’s existence some time ago from the RD website. And I REALLY like this blog! Thanks PZ, this place gives me a more steady flow of anti creationism & atheism.. And as we all know, debunking creationists is a lot of fun!

  10. #11 AlisonS
    September 28, 2008

    The issue is not which candidate a church endorses, it is that they get a free ride off the backs of all taxpayers. It is high time they lose their privileged status and if this Pulpit Freedom Sunday could induce the IRS to tax them all, I’d be ecstatic.

  11. #12 hubris hurts
    September 28, 2008

    I was pleasantly surprised when reading an article about this nonsense on a news site earlier today (sorry, I can’t remember which one) to find that the vast majority of comments on the article were against letting churches endorse candidates. What surprised me were the number of commenters who claimed to be regular church-goers who do not want the church telling them who to vote for. The reasons vary, but nearly all of them said that the tax-exempt status should be yanked from any church that overtly endorsed any candidate.

  12. #13 jimellismusic
    September 28, 2008

    Yo Peeps; Is there any organized effort to de-tax -exempt religious institutions? Perhaps we could help. Nothin’ but luv. jimellismusic

  13. #14 hubris hurts
    September 28, 2008

    My feeling is that a church should only be tax exempt if they follow the IRS’s rules for being a charitable organization. In other words, all assets and all reasources of the organization are dedicated to carrying out the chosen charitable purpose. The charitable purpose would need to be something genuine and tangible, not just “preaching the gospel.” If most of the money donated to a church goes to feed the hungry, education the illiterate, or heal the sick, then fine – give them tax-exempt status.

    I’ve mentioned before that my brother is the head pastor at an evangical church. He and his wife often speak about how wealthy the parishoners were, how expensive the church’s new sound system was, how much their trip to “The Holy Land” costs each year (paid for by the church), etc, etc, etc. But I honestly cannot think of a single time that either of them mentioned any thing that they or the church did to help the poor, illiterate, and sick. (Well, other than the creepy Anointing ceremony that my brother performs on sick people to convince god to heal them.)

    To give an example of their attitude toward money and the church, when a church that was just starting up asked my brother to consider become their head pastor, his wife vetoed it with the comment, “We’re not going to some podunk little church that can’t afford us.”

  14. #15 Abbie
    September 28, 2008

    We should really work to make sure this blows up in their face. Removing the tax-exempt status for churches should be the first political goal once the quoteunquotenew atheist movement reaches critical mass.

  15. #16 hubris hurts
    September 28, 2008

    Re: my post at #14. Sorry for the typos and mixed tenses. I should really proofread my comments better before hitting “Post.”

  16. #17 bipolar2
    September 28, 2008

    ** what would Luthor do? **

    It’s fundie self-parody time again. Yes, how would Jesus vote?

    Amazing how fatuous the arrogance of big-xian business sounds. So odious and totally dispensable as an ethical or ideological guide.

    Enough of bible worshipers indulging in mere scripticism. — What they claim has no more intellectual integrity or moral value than dictates by drunken geeks parsing comix at a Superman convention.

    What a fictionalized culture hero Jesus or Moses or Mohammed would do is irrelevant. As irrelevant as what Hercules or Sherlock Holmes, or Lex Luthor would do.

    Despite offering ontological frauds and morally purblind ideology, religious fanatics exert unwholesome political power. McCain/Palin pray that fundies will back thier remake of Apocalypse Now in Iran. Obama reaches out to pet theocrats-in-waiting. Casting pearls before America’s most swinish, he’s already carried obligatory religious hypocrisy too far.

    As for moral monsters like Dobson and all his disgusting epigones: declare their mega-xian-enterprises taxable. They are nothing more than fronts for the far right ideology of dominionism. (Better learn what dominionism means!)

    Eliminate their tax shelters. Stop state support of religion. Let it wither like Jonah’s vine.

    “God help me. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. Amen.” (Martin Luther)

    bipolar2 2008

  17. #18 negentropyeater
    September 28, 2008

    Organizers said they wanted a range of clergy of various faiths and political persuasions to join the protest, but acknowledged that the participants might be “weighted” toward the conservative end of the spectrum and more likely to support the Republican candidate

    Gee, “might be weighted toward”… ?
    Wonder what the result will be, 33 to 0 ?

  18. #19 chancelikely
    September 28, 2008

    An interesting thought: how many churches would go under if churches lost tax-exempt status?

  19. #20 bipolar2
    September 28, 2008

    . . . fundies may be funny, especially to people trained to reason and skepticism. but, millions of Americans accept their political ideology (dominionism). . .

    ** Junk-food faith for a fat-head nation **

    ? Palin has a plan for you — especially for women

    Welcome to “Gilead.” Once part of America, it is a nation controlled by fundamentalists and their transnational corporate overlords. (Search: dominionism)

    In The Handmaid”s Tale, Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood evokes a dystopia where women have been stripped of all rights. Gilead is Ameristan, christian Taliban included. (DVD: IMDb.com/title/tt0099731)

    ? Ameristan – growing an ignorance base

    The US is an aberration among developed nations in its affinity for xian enthusiasms and in its failure to accept basic truths like evolution. A plurality of Americans think that evolution does not take place. (http://pewforum.org/surveys/origins/)

    A nation overwhelmingly god-fearing also overwhelmingly rejects science. Millions lack a critical intelligence to evaluate the garbage they stuff into their brains.

    Palin belongs to them. Her disinformed science — dinosaurs and humans walked together — and bloated ego reinforce each other. She is a throwback to the mental and moral world before Darwin, a characteristic of fundies.

    ? Poisoning the planet in end-of-days madness

    Palin’s sexual ideology is pro-mass-death: creating disease, poverty, and ignorance by fostering overpopulation, damning safe non-reproductive sex, and blocking responsible medical research.

    She espouses ideological madness. Dominionism is a toxic ersatz for public policy, domestic and foreign. Palin proudly displays that inverted elitism common among consumers of junk-food faith. (See 1Corinthians1:18-28 esp. 27-28)

    The mythic culture-hero Jesus is coming back very soon — a 2,000 year old lie. McCain/Palin = Nuke Iran! / Apocalypse Now! These moral monsters are bouyed by their interlocking delusions.

    bipolar2 2008

  20. #21 Nemo
    September 28, 2008

    Pulpit Freedom Sunday? You bet! I’ll be happy to celebrate another Sunday free of pulpits, as I do every Sunday.

  21. #22 shane
    September 28, 2008

    chancelikely, probably not many. The biggies would be less ostentatious but they’d still be fleecing their flocks enough to get by. Jesus will probably want the tithe rate changed from 10% to 20% to help support the church now that their very survival is threatened by the government.

  22. #23 Owen
    September 28, 2008

    Jason (#4) – any pastor who stumps for a candidate, be it McCain, Obama, Ron Paul or his pet hamster, deserves to lose his tax-exempt status. It’s important for politics to work on as level a playing fields as possible and if that means that people who are on “our” side are cheating, they need to suffer the same consequences as the other guys.

  23. #24 Daddy Stegosaurus
    September 28, 2008

    This one is an instant classic.

    ChicagoTribune.com

    If we can tell you what to do in the bedroom, we can certainly tell you what to do in the voting booth,” said the minister, an evangelical leader of a nondenominational church, who expects to endorse Republican John McCain during his Pulpit Freedom Sunday sermon.

  24. #25 imr90
    September 28, 2008

    It is my understanding that IRS policy prohibits political activity by all tax exempt organizations, not just churches. If the policy were to be changed for churches it would have to be changed for all tax exempt organizations, thereby opening the way for taxpayer subsidy of political organizations. The argument that the IRS policy violates free speech is of course nonsense, since any organization can say whatever they want as long as they don’t expect the taxpayers to subsidize it.

    As many have said before, the real issue is whether churches should be tax exempt at all. If we support tax exemption for charitable organizations then it should apply to the part of a church’s work that is demonstrably charitable.

  25. #26 Scott from Oregon
    September 28, 2008

    “The issue is not which candidate a church endorses, it is that they get a free ride off the backs of all taxpayers. It is high time they lose their privileged status and if this Pulpit Freedom Sunday could induce the IRS to tax them all, I’d be ecstatic…”

    I was watching a debate that includeed Dinesh, and he brought up a study that demonstrated the charitability of various political/religious mixes (I don’t agree with him on his views, but I believe him to be an honest debater).

    The most charitable were the Christian Conservatives. Then Christian Liberals. Then secular Conservatives. Finally, holding up the rear, Secular Liberals.

    Church hate is no reason to allow the IRS to take more money out of local communities and give it to an organization that will spend it on bullets and bombs and interest payments on debt and donating it to dictators abroad and on wars that never needed to happen.

    There is an odd irrationality amongst many “progressives” that I can’t fathom. You claim to want to “help the poor” while trying to promote the destruction of organizations that do just that.

    Church organizations would be fine if they just removed the irrationality out of their doctrine…

    Of course, then they wouldn’t be a church organization anymore, now would they?

    Question– why are churches the largest private charity group in America? What’s wrong with all the godless liberals? I know there are secular organizations, but they pale in size and influence. Why is that?

  26. #27 shane
    September 28, 2008

    If we can tell you what to do in the bedroom, we can certainly tell you what to do in the voting booth,” said the minister, an evangelical leader of a nondenominational church, who expects to endorse Republican John McCain during his Pulpit Freedom Sunday sermon.

    Well, I for one am always looking for a little help in regard to horizontal gymnastics, so thank you preacher guy. What he really meant though was “We tell you want you can’t do in the bedroom”. Also “tell you what to do in the voting booth”, tell you, TELL YOU. Geeze, the arrogance.

  27. #28 Daddy Stegosaurus
    September 28, 2008

    Shane,
    I didn’t think of that angle. Maybe there are other sanctioned positions besides the old missionary that we just haven’t listened long enough to receive. Maybe that’s why fundies are just sooo happy and fulfilled.

  28. #29 imr90
    September 28, 2008

    Scott from Oregon: I think you are looking at charitable organizations when the relevant statistic would be what individuals do that would be considered charitable/community service. There may not be as many secular charitable organizations as religious, but I expect that secular people donate as much to charity as religious people do.

  29. #30 stogoe
    September 28, 2008

    To be fair, PZ, you should note that there will be plenty of churches preaching for Obama also.

    I find this notion laughable, nutbag. Especially since the IRS has for years cracked down much harder on liberal churches than on conservative ones. Liberal churches are also more likely to support separation of church and state.

  30. #31 Empirical Infidel
    September 28, 2008

    It’s the responsibility of every individual to educate themselves on the facts of the election and vote based on that. If they let some pastor make the decision for them they are not doing their job as responsible voters. Fundies always say that god gave us free will to choose between right and wrong, why do so many Xians think they give up that right on election day? And if the pastors can’t keep their mouths shut about politics, they should open their wallets for the IRS.

  31. #32 Paper Hand
    September 28, 2008

    #10:

    I am not from the USA, but why exactly does the church have the exemption of paying taxes? Aren’t Religion & State strictly separated in the US of A?

    All churches have tax-exempt status, even such entities as the Church of Scientology, which is why courts have permitted these exemptions – they don’t favor particular religions. Also, unfortunately, the church-state separation is becoming increasingly a matter of theory rather than practice.

    #26:
    I don’t know why seculars tend to donate less to individual charity, but I do know that we tend to favor more social spending by governments, which does tend to be more useful. Indeed, we secular progressives tend to be willing to pay more (in taxes) than what religious people tend to be willing to pay in individual charity. Perhaps the differences is that we tend to feel that social welfare should be a shared responsibility, rather than a matter of individual discretion.

  32. #33 Scott from Oregon
    September 28, 2008

    “I don’t know why seculars tend to donate less to individual charity, but I do know that we tend to favor more social spending by governments, which does tend to be more useful. Indeed, we secular progressives tend to be willing to pay more (in taxes) than what religious people tend to be willing to pay in individual charity. Perhaps the differences is that we tend to feel that social welfare should be a shared responsibility, rather than a matter of individual discretion.”

    What is interesting to observe is the usefulness and effectiveness of church organizations verses the government in areas where disaster has occured. Someone should look at this honestly and see what turns up. Anecdotally, there seems to be a lot of claims that the churches far surpassed the government in effectness in hurricane relief, for example.

    This may or may not be true, but it deserves anhonest look.

    Another question I know gets asked but I’ll ask it again anyway– How do you promote the good things church groups do without introducing or promoting all the nutterisms that go along with it?

    It’s an Atheistic conundrum.

  33. #34 Eric Atkinson
    September 28, 2008

    I find this notion laughable, nutbag. Especially since the IRS has for years cracked down much harder on liberal churches than on conservative ones. Liberal churches are also more likely to support separation of church and state.

    Here we go with the names again.
    The IRS has investigated several “black” liberal churches but has not “cracked down” on any of them. The last church to lose its tax exempt status was a conservitive church back in 1992.

    Do you’re research before you spew off at the mouth stogoe.

  34. #35 Dust
    September 28, 2008

    Shane @ 26:

    Did Dinesh mention the influence of the odious “Faith Based Initiative” that was started by GWB and funnels millions of tax dollars into “”religious charities?” That by far most of the money goes to fundie “charities” that use a small amount of charity to provide cover for lots of protestilizing (sp)and graft? He didn’t? Hmmmmmmmm, there goes his “honest debater” credentials.

  35. #36 natural cynic
    September 28, 2008

    Speaking of settled law, wouldn’t it be nice to really shake things up and strip all churches of their tax exemptions? I know there’d be an immediate roar of protest from all churches everywhere that would have some political cost, but after 9/10ths of the churches fold, and after cities enjoy the sudden filling of the voids in their municipal tax base, and after the financial crisis is resolved, we’d be better off.

    90%?? You’re dreaming. At most 10%. And the ones that are closed would not be the worst ones. They would be the most likely to survive. Still, it’s a good idea.

    If the IRS decides that churches aren’t tax exempt, it would be up to states and municipalities to add property and other taxes to churches. That would be possible in some areas, but highly unlikely in others – the ones that could and should pay the most, the ones with megachurches.

  36. #37 JStein
    September 28, 2008

    Hmmm… this whole tax exemption thing looks really shady to me.

    Now I’m gonna have to do some homework on it.

  37. #38 gaypaganunitarianagnostic
    September 28, 2008

    Curuously, our UU church service didn’t mention politics in service today. A while back the coptroller of Texas tried to take the exemption from a UU group.

  38. #39 Moses
    September 28, 2008

    Oh, I so hope the do it. Because most of these clowns record their services and will bury themselves.

    And, as Professor Tuttle said, it is well-settled law.

  39. #40 Moses
    September 28, 2008

    Posted by: raven | September 28, 2008 11:50 AM

    The IRS almost never prosecutes “churches” that endorse and work for Theothuglican candidates.

    The IRS is stopped by the wing-nuts who have, since the days of Nixon, abused the powers of the IRS for themselves. Get rid of the political officers, and they’ll be able move forward.

  40. #41 SC
    September 28, 2008

    SfO blathering on as usual:

    What is interesting to observe is the usefulness and effectiveness of church organizations verses the government in areas where disaster has occured. Someone should look at this honestly and see what turns up. Anecdotally, there seems to be a lot of claims that the churches far surpassed the government in effectness in hurricane relief, for example.

    This may or may not be true, but it deserves anhonest look.

    What is interesting to observe is that FEMA in the ’90s was a respected agency run by competent people. Local FEMA programs involved local organizations and agencies in emergency-response efforts and worked well. Then Bush gutted the agency, replaced key staff with political cronies and hacks (many others resigned in disgust), and made FEMA subservient to a bogus “state security” mission. These people are now moving ever more in the direction of the privatization of emergency response, in which the rich can afford to be saved, the poor are left to die, and the corporate fatcats profit.

    After Katrina, many local and national community groups did the best they could to aid in relief efforts. Anarchists locally and from across the country, for example, came to offer medical services and to bring and help prepare food. All of these groups and organizations found themselves fighting alongside residents for monetary aid and for basic rights, while local and national politicians focused on implementing Friedman’s “disaster capitalist” schemes.

    Once again, SfO the glibertarian speaks from ignorance and anecdote and lacks the most basic understanding of history or the forces in action. He’s a moron made to order for the corporate elite.

  41. #42 Moses
    September 28, 2008

    Posted by: Alan Chapman | September 28, 2008 11:58 AM

    Why do people laugh at creationists? (part 26) Sarah Palin

    I frequently post his videos. I think they’re great. Though I’ve been ignoring the whole “VenomfangX violated the DMCA…” thing. He should just file charges and move on instead of the melodrama.

  42. #43 JoshS
    September 28, 2008

    I hope you won’t mind a cut-n-paste from a post I left at the Houston Chronicle’s “Believe Out Loud” blog. Most commenters there are ignorant of the tax code and the special treatment churches receive. I run a 501(c)(3) nonprofit (secular), so I tried to clarify for them how this actually works. I hope it’s helpful here too.

    jaredg77 wrote:

    “Further proof that 501 targets churches: 501(h) allows educational institutions, hospitals, publicly-supported organizations and other such institutions to elect to lobby on behalf of their beliefs and interests. The only 501(c) institutions not permitted to do so? That would be churches and religious organizations. Seems like an interesting place to draw the line.”

    You are incorrect. 501(c)(3) organizations are not just churches, but any nonprofit charity. Churches are not “targeted,” they *voluntarily* ask the IRS for 501(c)(3) status. Many secular organizations have this status, too – I run one. Just like every other (c)(3), my organization cannot endorse or oppose particular candidates.

    501(c)(3) – note the “3″ that’s the difference – is the most favorable charity status. It is the only charity status that allows an organization to accept tax-deductible contributions. Note that this is *different* from being tax-exempt. All nonprofits are tax-exempt, but only 501(c)(3) organizations can accept tax-deductible donations. Donations to other nonprofits are not deductible for the donor.

    In exchange for this extraordinarily favorable tax status, (c)(3)s have a duty not to get involved in electioneering. This is not unreasonable, and it has nothing to do with targeting churches. Churches do not have to sign up as (c)(3)s. If they want to tell the flock how to vote, they can forego this status and choose another nonprofit category.

    For those of you who have a persecution complex and believe churches are “targeted,” did you know that *only* churches are allowed to keep their finances secret? Every other 501(c)(3) – secular charities – has to open their books to the public and show what they spend their money on. Churches get a free pass on this. Do you still believe churches are “targeted?”

    They get the most favorable treatment by the IRS, and they don’t even have to report their income and expenditures. Whatever they spend their donations on, the gov’t automatically assumes, no proof required, that it’s “charitable.”

    Anyone still want to complain about how bad off the churches are?

  43. #44 John
    September 28, 2008

    Speaking of settled law, wouldn’t it be nice to really shake things up and strip all churches of their tax exemptions? I know there’d be an immediate roar of protest from all churches everywhere that would have some political cost, but after 9/10ths of the churches fold,

    You definitely haven’t been dragged kicking and screaming into a church for a long time. It’s worth it for a little perspective: Take note of the acre of carpet, the lighting, the furniture, the sound system; and go nail down some prices on those things. Then add a substantial markup, since every inch is a custom job. You’ll probably never see that caliber of swag in any other business. Oh, and all the work is done by cherry picked church members; never any questions about the cost.

    All this excess doesn’t hurt the board. Track down a few pastors of local churches and go sightseeing past their houses. They’re doing okay.

    Churches certainly have a significant amount of disposable income. Seriously, think about the cost of core operations. Nada. Not only can they afford the tax, but christians would consider taxation to be tantamount to persecution; a primary virtue. Persecution via taxation would draw one hell of a crowd.

  44. #45 Moses
    September 28, 2008

    Posted by: Scott from Oregon | September 28, 2008 1:12 PM

    I don’t agree with him on his views, but I believe him to be an honest debater).

    OMFG! He’s a venal liar who relies on the strawman and logical fallacy when he’s not just flat-out lying. That you think he’s an “honest debater” just further cements your reputation as a complete wanker.

  45. #46 Ryan
    September 28, 2008

    I would be interested in exactly how they define seclar versus religious and how they determine exactly what counts as a charity in those stats mentioned in #26. Link?

  46. #47 gaypaganunitarianagnostic
    September 28, 2008

    I think small, liberal denominations,like mine, Would suffer more than the big conservative denominations.

  47. #48 Notagod
    September 28, 2008

    Scott,

    Of course, examples could be given to poke major holes in your assertions regarding the supposed charity of the christian, however, as christians have a general aversion to facts, I will instead offer to you that which christians DO believe to be a statement of fact; I will find some examples and bring them to ya (as per the Palin presidential campaign.)

  48. #49 FlameDuck
    September 28, 2008

    Indeed. I’m pretty sure the property tax on the Catholic Church alone, would be more than enough to nationalize the banks.

  49. #50 EJ
    September 28, 2008

    The IRS has never actually revoked a church’s tax exempt status for anything said from the pulpit, although they send warning letters to ministers from time to time. The 1992 case that resulted in revocation of tax-exemption involved a church that took out newspaper ads endorsing candidates. Be interesting to see what they do with this open defiance though.

    I’ve never understood why a church losing its IRS tax exempt status would be that big of a deal, other than requiring a bit more paperwork and accountant fees. Most churches would have very little taxable income once they write off operating and charitable expenses. I suppose the clergy would lose some of their personal tax breaks, but it seems like that’s about it.

    The property tax exemption, at least in California, doesn’t actually require that they don’t engage in politics. So it seems to me that they could keep their property tax exemption even if the IRS made them pay income tax.

    You can bet if they ever did take away the religious tax exemption, you’d have a lot of religious types agitating to get rid of the tax exemption for non-profit scientific organizations, though.

  50. #51 SC
    September 28, 2008

    There is an odd irrationality amongst many “progressives” that I can’t fathom. You claim to want to “help the poor” while trying to promote the destruction of organizations that do just that.

    Wrong again, you utter twit. There are organizations of the poor that are fighting for social justice and community power so that they don’t have to rely on charity from people who are more concerned with their supposed afterlives than their lives. I work with those. On several occasions, I’ve given SfO information on organizations that are fighting at the local level for the very causes he claims are important to him. He has no intention of actually doing anything. Now add that he considers D’Souza to be an honest debater to the other reasons for considering him unworthy of a considered response.

  51. #52 Steve
    September 28, 2008

    Remember that the vast majority of the money given to churches is used to run the church itself; that is, it’s used to provide services to the people donating the money (pays for the building, church staff salaries, programs for the congregation, etc). The total amount of money spent by churches on “social services” for others (housing, food, health care, etc) is a pitance compared to what federal, state and local governments can and do spend on the same things.

  52. #53 EJ
    September 28, 2008

    The Salvation Army’s charitable expenses are hardly a “pittance.” They’re so identified with charity that a lot of people don’t even realize that they’re a distinct Christian denomination.

    You’ve got groups like Lutheran World Relief, Habitat for Humanity – these aren’t small, low-budget operations.

  53. #54 Steve
    September 28, 2008

    The Salvation Army does receive hundreds of millions of dollars every year. But a substantial proportion of that income is actually from the taxpayers. For example, as part of President Bush’s “faith-based initiative,” US taxpayers gave the Salvation Army’s children services division $47 million this year — 95% of its total budget (for that division).

    By contrast, the federal government currently spends about $30 billion (that’s billion with a “b”) on the food stamps program ALONE.

  54. #55 Chris A.
    September 28, 2008

    Three biggest space wasters in any city.
    1. Churches
    2. Cemeteries
    3. Golf Courses

  55. #56 Keanus
    September 28, 2008

    If you missed JoshS’s comment (#54) you should read it. I don’t have down the code classes for the different varieties of non-profits like he has, but churches are treated very, very differently from non-churches, violating in my view the separation of church and state. A 502(3)(c) pays on income tax, no real estate tax, no value added tax, nor any other kind of tax. And then contributions and donations to them are tax deductible. In return for this churches are not allowed to engage in politics or public lobbying. And this follows logically since they are huge beneficiaries of society’s largesse.

    Further, as JoshS noted, they are not required to file any kind of financial report publicly or privately to the IRS or any other government agency. On the other hand, all secular non-profits must file an annual report, the IRS Form 990, which is just as complex and potentially revealing as a 1040. So any reviews of church finances are entirely voluntary. Some are well run, with a board of directors and an audit committee, but at many only the pastor knows the true state of the finances with the congregation, who provide the funds, privy to nothing. Of course, the potential for abuse in this is huge and the root of Sen. Charles Grassley’s (R-Iowa) request to half a dozen mega churches this past spring for detailed information on their financial operations. Some have complied or said they would. Other’s have challenged his right to the information.

    In the end, if a church or its pastor wants to be active politically, they’re welcome to do so. They must just forego their tax exempt status and donors cannot deduct their donations on their 1040′s etc.

    In my view, churches and religion would be far healthier (something PZ does not think possible, in all likelihood) if they paid full taxes, their members could not deduct their annual pledges, and they had to file annual financial statements publicly. They could then speak their mind politically with complete freedom, not fret about what the IRS thought, and pastors would find it much harder to fleece their flock, something that is probably done widely under current laws. Also removing churches from the tax exempt status would restore a wide swath of real estate to the tax rolls. Currently something between 20 and 40% of the real estate in most major cities is tax exempt for religious reasons, placing an distorted burden on residents whose wealth is nowhere near that of the churches.

  56. #57 Cynical Jones
    September 28, 2008

    I wonder how much “charitable” spending actually goes toward proselytizing/missions, etc….

    A friend of mine belongs to a church that seems to boast its missions above everything else.

  57. #58 SC
    September 28, 2008

    A little history – the IWW vs. the Salvation Army in musical battles:

    The IWW concentrated much of their efforts on organizing the migratory and casual laborers of the lumber and construction camps. In between jobs these migrants would gather in the Skid Rows of Chicago, Portland, Seattle and other cities they used as a “base of operations.” There on the street corners was the inevitable Salvation Army band anxious to save lost Wobbly souls.

    But the Wobblies were more interested in filling their stomachs than in saving their souls, and they ridiculed the Salvation Army hymns with biting parodies aimed at what came to be known as “pie in the sky” preaching….

    The most successful of these parodies was Joe Hill’s masterpiece, “The Preacher and the Slave,” more widely known as “Pie in the Sky” — a devastating take-off on the hymn “Sweet Bye and Bye.”

    - Edith Fowke and Joe Glazer, Songs of Work and Protest, New York, NY, 1973, p. 157.

    First published in the Jul 6, 1911 edition of the Industrial Worker “Little Red Songbook” as “Long Haired Preachers,”, credited to F. B. Brechler (subsequently credited to Joe Hill in Mar 6, 1913 fifth edition)

    Long-haired preachers come out every night,
    Try to tell you what’s wrong and what’s right;
    But when asked how ’bout something to eat
    They will answer with voices so sweet:

    CHORUS:
    You will eat, bye and bye,
    In that glorious land above the sky;
    Work and pray, live on hay,
    You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.
    The starvation army they play,
    They sing and they clap and they pray
    ‘Till they get all your coin on the drum
    Then they’ll tell you when you’re on the bum:
    Holy Rollers and jumpers come out,
    They holler, they jump and they shout.
    Give your money to Jesus they say,
    He will cure all diseases today.
    If you fight hard for children and wife –
    Try to get something good in this life –
    You’re a sinner and bad man, they tell,
    When you die you will sure go to hell.

    Workingmen of all countries, unite,
    Side by side we for freedom will fight;
    When the world and its wealth we have gained
    To the grafters we’ll sing this refrain:

    FINAL CHORUS:
    You will eat, bye and bye,
    When you’ve learned how to cook and to fry.
    Chop some wood, ’twill do you good,
    And you’ll eat in the sweet bye and bye.

    [Note: Actually, the employers sent the Salvation Army bands out to drown out the Wobblies when they were speaking on street corners.]

  58. #59 sibosop
    September 28, 2008

    Talleyrand had some great ideas about the church’s use in an economic crisis. Let the inventories begin.

  59. #60 David Marjanovi?, OM
    September 28, 2008

    What is interesting to observe is the usefulness and effectiveness of church organizations verses the government in areas where disaster has occured. Someone should look at this honestly and see what turns up. Anecdotally, there seems to be a lot of claims that the churches far surpassed the government in effectness in hurricane relief, for example.

    Come on. Do you seriously propose to take anything the Busheviki have done, the very people who keep preaching that the existence of government is the root of all evil, as the best example of what a country can do? There’s a reason why New Orleans is not only called “Lake George”, but also “Norquist’s Bathtub”.

    And Distort D’Newsa an honest debater? Are you new to Pharyngula? He’s like Faux News: We distort, we deride.

  60. #61 Radwaste
    September 28, 2008

    Wow. How can a blogful of self-confident people carry on about the tax status of churches without once referring to actual IRS material on the subject?

    And why, other than blind hate, would you imply that any part of this section of IRS regulations is the duty and product of anyone but Congress?

  61. #62 JoshS
    September 28, 2008

    Radwaste, what are you talking about? Who has blind hate? Do you think people are getting technical details wrong here? If so, could you please point that out?

    Boy, the believers at the Houston Chronicle’s “Believe Out Loud” are giving a great demonstration in religious exceptionalism and subject-changing when they get caught. If my long posts are annoying anyone here, let me know and I’ll stop.

    Here’s more:

    JoshS,

    You miss the point – The US Federal government has NEVER taxed churches, even before the IRS or Johnson Amendment came into existence. The US Federal government has no business taxing churches and it has no business telling a Pastor what he can say from a pulpit. Period.

    and:

    jaredg777 wrote:
    Josh,

    I understand what you said but you didn’t really address the point I was making. It’s obvious that 501(c)(3) includes several types of non-church organizations. However, under 501(h), every 501(c)(3) organization, except churches, can elect to lobby to an extent without losing their exemption. I just find that to be an interesting differentiation.

    As far as opening up the records, churches are obligated to keep books and records under RR 6-2008 and the IRS can still audit them via the procedures in Section 7611.

    To which I replied:

    DeaconKnowGood:

    I understand your point, but I disagree with it. If churches want to endorse candidates, I believe they should lose their tax-exempt status. You can believe you have a mandate from God all you want, but that doesn’t change the fact that many churches clearly want temporal, here-and-now power. They want to be exempted from rendering unto Caesar by dressing it up as doing God’s work. I’m not buying it. It’s a very real-world power grab, and you know it. You’re not somehow more pure because you make a “spiritual” claim. You’re just a human with mundane motivations like the rest of us.

    Also to jaredg77:

    Thanks for clarifying what you were talking about. I think you’re still unclear (I’m not saying this to be nasty, just to state a fact) on a few things under the tax code.

    1. Lobbying is *not* what we were discussing. We were talking about endorsing candidates. Those are not the same thing legally.

    2. The IRS defines “lobbying” as trying to influence public policy, such as the passage or defeat of a law.

    3. The IRS defines “electioneering” as the direct support of or opposition to a candidate. All (c)(3)s, churches and others, are strictly prohibited from electioneering. That is what the Pulpit Freedom folks are challenging, not the right to lobby.

    Switching gears: Yes, I know that 501(h) allows (c)(3)s to declare lobbying activity to a certain extent without losing their exempt status. I recognize that churches (and private foundations – you’re not being singled out) are denied that declaration. I would suspect this has to do with a longstanding gov’t interest in not allowing pastors to abuse their influence. You and I may disagree on whether that’s appropriate or justified.

    But that doesn’t stop churches or other (c)(3)s from lobbying altogether. Remember we’re talking about lobbying, not electioneering. If organizations can’t or don’t make the declaration you cited above, they can still lobby. The IRS will hold them to the “insubstantial” test in evaluating that, a vaguer standard that basically says, “you can lobby, but it can’t make up a substantial part of how you expend your donations.”

    Jaredg77 – one more thing:

    “As far as opening up the records, churches are obligated to keep books and records under RR 6-2008 and the IRS can still audit them via the procedures in Section 7611.”

    That is not the same thing as being required to open your books to the public and potential donors. Every 501(c)(3) has to do that *except churches*. I hope you’ll be honest enough to acknowledge that’s an incredible special privilege, and that it can hide vast abuses from public scrutiny. IRS audits are not the only or best way to keep organizations honest – transparency to donors, which affects where they choose to donate, are another way. Churches don’t have to abide by this.

    Do you really believe churches should have all these privileges, automatically, with an assumption that everything they do is correct and doesn’t need any scrutiny, but they still ought not to have to do *anything* in return, like refrain from endorsing candidates?

  62. #63 Alan Chapman
    September 28, 2008

    #42 I think Thunderf00t did the right thing by settling out of court. His decision was level-headed and reasonable. Legal action would’ve needlessly squandered time and money for the parties involved, as well as that of taxpayers.

    VenomFangX is a self-righteous dullard, without remorse or integrity. The punishment for his shameful antics will not end after he is made to read an apology on his YouTube channel. That’s only the beginning. He must contend with a lifetime of ridicule, embarrassment, and ostracism. He is young and naive, and will soon be entering the workforce. He is blissfully unaware of the extent to which he has undermined any potential prospects for a prosperous and fulfilling career in the future. He will likely be relegated to seeking the employ of some religious organization. No reputable company would hire somebody like that knowing in advance the kind of person he is, and his painfully permanent record on YouTube will serve as an admonishment to others.

  63. #64 Scott from Oregon
    September 28, 2008

    “There may not be as many secular charitable organizations as religious, but I expect that secular people donate as much to charity as religious people do.”

    Actually, the math is easy to do. Religious folks make up over 60% of the US. They pay taxes. Those taxes are combined with secular taxes to make up the donations to charitable organizations by government.

    Then there are their own charities.

    Add this all up and it is easy to see that religious folks out give secular folks to the poor and needy.

    Throw in all of the charity they give to each other as part of their congregational “duties” and the godless lose this challenge hands down.

    “Come on. Do you seriously propose to take anything the Busheviki have done, the very people who keep preaching that the existence of government is the root of all evil, as the best example of what a country can do?”

    Ummm, you are joking right? The Bushies are big government nonsensical idiocrats. They have nothing to do with a small government stance on anything and everything.

    Bush is now the bailout guy as well as the FISA and Patriot Act guy. Big government all the way. He’s just inept and stupid as an added bonus.

  64. #65 Notagod
    September 28, 2008

    Scott from Oregon, is under the delusion that there is a test for religiosity to give to religiously governed charities. He provides no proof at all that the contributions aren’t significantly funded by secular people.

    Throw in all of the charity they give to each other as part of their congregational “duties”

    So christians need to be whipped and receive tax relief to get them to do what secularists do without prodding or tax relief of any kind.

  65. #66 EJ
    September 28, 2008

    Notagod@65 – ANYONE who gives to charity is entitled to write it off on their taxes, dum-dum.

    Maybe if you tried it you would know that.

  66. #67 Ichthyic
    September 28, 2008

    Notagod@65 – ANYONE who gives to charity is entitled to write it off on their taxes, dum-dum.

    frankly, I don’t think that’s what he was implying, but rather that the incentive of tax relief wasn’t required.

    could be wrong, but that’s how I read it.

  67. #68 DB
    September 28, 2008

    “Church hate is no reason to allow the IRS to take more money out of local communities and give it to an organization that will spend it on bullets and bombs and interest payments on debt and donating it to dictators abroad and on wars that never needed to happen.”

    Whether churches should be taxed is an entirely separate question from what the current government would do with the money if they were taxed, and should be decided on its own merits. If you don’t like what the government’s doing with the taxes they collect, don’t just throw up your hands and say well, we’re better off if they don’t get more money; elect different people who will do different things.

  68. #69 Luger Otter Robinson
    September 28, 2008

    Scott from Oregan (comment #26), I also unfortunately saw that debate of D’Souza. Honest debater is not exactly a description I’d use with regard to him. According to: http://philanthropy.com/free/articles/v19/i04/04001101.htm
    the order of charitable donations is; religious conservatives, religious liberals (almost as much), secular liberals then secular conservatives. If religious donations are excluded the difference is $88 per year (not much). He had secular conservatives and secular liberals the other way around.
    I’m an atheist liberal and I donate (admittedly by credit card, automatically, each month, so I don’t really notice it, but I do donate; to Amnesty, Mediciens Sans Frontieres, Red Cross, World Vision (I’m still not quite certain why I’m donating to a Christian charity, from memory I think I read an newspaper article noting that most Australians spend more on a pet dog than donating to charity, and suggested that a donation to World Vision’s child sponsorship was a good idea, so I immediately signed up over the internet. I was later amazed at the invective he received from other readers), World Wildlife Foundation (and an Australian equivalent), Greenpeace and Pandas International (admittedly the last 4 aren’t human charities, but I like other animals). With regard to charities within one’s own country, I take the view that, that is the function of government. I pay a lot of tax and I think that it is government’s role to ensure that members of our community don’t fall through the cracks.

  69. #70 John
    September 28, 2008

    Add this all up and it is easy to see that religious folks out give secular folks to the poor and needy.

    Religious charitable contributions made up 33.4% of all charitable giving in 2007.

  70. #71 David C.
    September 28, 2008

    #19
    No church’s will go under as long as our government gives $$$ via it’s myth based iniative.

  71. #72 EJ
    September 28, 2008

    frankly, I don’t think that’s what he was implying, but rather that the incentive of tax relief wasn’t required.

    So the assertion, is that Christians only give to charity to get tax breaks, but secular folks will take tax breaks but would give charitably anyway even if they didn’t get tax relief?

    Aren’t we all about falsifiable propositions here?

  72. #73 Mrs Tilton
    September 28, 2008

    wouldn’t it be nice to really shake things up and strip all churches of their tax exemptions?

    You know, I thought that was a good idea back when I was a Christian. I still think it now.

    Not that I want to silence Christians. Far from it. In fact, I am listening to one right now (Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian, “The State I Am In”). If they can make a pretty song (or what have you) that people will voluntarily pay to hear, more power to them. But if they want their income to go untaxed, then my goodness, they really ought to play by the rules.

    It occurs to me that an ancient Palestinian rabbi, Jesus by name, was pretty clear on the topic.

  73. #74 Bacopa
    September 28, 2008

    If you’re really into taxing churches, you need to watch Foul Play. Goldie Hawn’s best movie and Chevy Chase’s only good movie. Dudley Moore in a supporting role and plenty of music by Barry Manilow and the Bee Gee’s. The Bee Gee’s songs were spliced in at the last minute to get them into a hit movie in case Saturday Night Fever failed

  74. #75 Kel
    September 28, 2008

    World Vision (I’m still not quite certain why I’m donating to a Christian charity, from memory I think I read an newspaper article noting that most Australians spend more on a pet dog than donating to charity, and suggested that a donation to World Vision’s child sponsorship was a good idea, so I immediately signed up over the internet. I was later amazed at the invective he received from other readers)

    I’d love to give to a charity that helps in the 3rd world, but I could never bring myself to supporting a christian organisation that’s going over there mainly to spread the word of Jesus.

    Do you know of any secular organisations that do a similar thing?

  75. #76 EJ
    September 28, 2008

    In the end, if a church or its pastor wants to be active politically, they’re welcome to do so. They must just forego their tax exempt status and donors cannot deduct their donations on their 1040′s etc.

    The most ridiculous part of this protest is that under current rules, church pastors actually ARE perfectly free to engage in political advocacy without losing tax exemption, just as long as they don’t do it in the middle of a church service or explicitly represent their views as those of the church.

    The current IRS rules, even if they were strictly enforced (which they aren’t), are really very little burden at all. But a certain segment of right-wing Christians just wouldn’t be the same without their persecution complex.

  76. #77 frank burns
    September 28, 2008

    When people give money to a church, they are really giving it to God, the Great Jehovah. Sure, the pastors lives off from it, but really it is God’s. Now, God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and all the gold in the universe. Do think he cares if the churches lose their tax exempt status? He couild care squat. He doesn’t even need the money — it is just a way for Christians to show their love. So, I say, take away the tax exempt status of all churches who want to become political machines — those who are in the business for just religion and charity, let them stay exempt.

  77. #78 SC
    September 28, 2008

    If you’re really into taxing churches, you need to watch Foul Play. Goldie Hawn’s best movie and Chevy Chase’s only good movie.

    Um, Fletch?

    That’s AMAZING, though – I have it on DVD and was just watching it the other day. Thought of it while I was reading this thread, too! I love that movie, but incredibly have only noticed key elements of it the past two times I’ve seen it.

  78. #79 SC
    September 28, 2008

    I’d love to give to a charity that helps in the 3rd world, but I could never bring myself to supporting a christian organisation that’s going over there mainly to spread the word of Jesus.
    Do you know of any secular organisations that do a similar thing?

    Partners in Health
    Grassroots International
    MADRE

  79. #80 Alligator
    September 28, 2008

    “The most ridiculous part of this protest is that under current rules, church pastors actually ARE perfectly free to engage in political advocacy without losing tax exemption, just as long as they don’t do it in the middle of a church service or explicitly represent their views as those of the church.

    Exactly. And this is consistent with the restrictions and disclosure requirements that current campaign finance law imposes on any person or organization that advocates the election or defeat of a particular candidate. (see penultimate question, http://www.fec.gov/ans/answers_general.shtml#charities ) There is no reason to make an exception for religious groups.

  80. #81 Notagod
    September 28, 2008

    EJ,

    I should have been more clear. My first paragraph @65 was referring to the assertion that charities governed by the christian means that christians are more charitable; the fact is that non-christians give to christian governed charities.

    The statement that I quoted and my response after it were challenging the assertion that christians help their church acquaintances thus suggesting that atheists don’t. For instance, I help my neighbors whenever possible even though I don’t receive any tax benefit as a christian does when doing it as a religious activity.

  81. #82 Kel
    September 28, 2008

    Partners in Health
    Grassroots International
    MADRE

    Thanks, I’ll check them out. My aunt is involved with some work in africa and it’s definitely through a non-Christian agency, I should talk to her and see what I can do to help.

  82. #83 SC
    September 28, 2008

    Thanks, I’ll check them out. My aunt is involved with some work in africa and it’s definitely through a non-Christian agency, I should talk to her and see what I can do to help.

    De nada. Also, I know I’m ceaselessly promoting Democracy Now! here, but they often have guests who represent organizations, including in Africa, that you probably won’t hear about otherwise. Even if you just go to their site and do a search for Africa you’ll probably come up with a list. Hope that’s at all helpful.

  83. #84 Julian
    September 28, 2008

    You’d think that if parishioners felt real dedication to their ideology of choice that they’d rejoice in the chance to pay a church’s property taxes.

  84. #85 W. H. Heydt
    September 28, 2008

    I’ve maintained for years that the tax exempt status for churches is bad for religion. It puts the IRS in the position of deciding what is or is not a church.

  85. #86 scooter
    September 28, 2008

    OT
    Hello from LA LA Land: Here is the audio from PZ’s evening at Commie Central, and some pics too.
    http://acksisofevil.org/pz-la.html

  86. #87 Scott Hatfield, OM
    September 29, 2008

    Speaking of settled law, wouldn’t it be nice to really shake things up and strip all churches of their tax exemptions?

    I’ve been saying the same thing for years within the pews. It would constitute virtually no threat to legitimate churches, which already go to no small trouble to make detailed financial records available to anyone who ask, and which typically are always in the red, anyway. But it would put the screws to the phony ‘non-denominational’ and largely fundamentalist churches that revolve around the charisma of one (typically well-compensated) pastor.

  87. #88 jagannath
    September 29, 2008

    So, why do christian churches object to paying taxes?

    In short because Christ told them to do so. As so many other things Christ taught, the christians will do the opposite.

  88. #89 JulianAugustus
    September 29, 2008

    I’ve been searching for a way to tax the churches for a while now – funny that the churches themselves might have done it for me.

    If we had any truly great rhetoricians in Washington anymore, maybe they could convince the churches that paying taxes was their patriotic duty to lift up this great nation blah blah blah.

    The other possibility: create a whole bunch of ‘churches’ claiming tax exempt status and deprive the gov’t of cash. Since the definition of “religion” is such a fuzzy one anyway, it wouldn’t be too hard. And then when the IRS finds out that nobody is paying taxes anymore for religious reasons it might be forced to eliminate the exemption altogether.

  89. #90 Gingerbaker
    September 29, 2008

    SFO said:

    “Church hate is no reason to allow the IRS to take more money out of local communities and give it to an organization that will spend it on bullets and bombs and interest payments on debt and donating it to dictators abroad and on wars that never needed to happen.”

    Is this the same organization that provides food stamps, educational grants, social security, homeless shelters, health clinics, food shelves, disaster relief, unemployment compensation, welfare payments, public safety, public schools, public libraries, Medicaid, Medicare, clean water and air, and employment training?

  90. #91 pharynguphile
    September 29, 2008

    Let the preachers preach for McCain/Palin, but not on the government’s dime.

    Let that read, “Let the biologists preach”, and we have a wee bit of hypocrisy, don’t we?

  91. #92 Brian Knoblock
    September 29, 2008

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a story today about this:

    The Rev. Jody Hice fired a verbal volley Sunday in a battle that he believes will return the United States to its American Revolutionary roots.

    From his pulpit at Bethlehem First Baptist Church outside of Atlanta, he urged his congregation to vote for Sen. John McCain and to not vote for Sen. Barack Obama.

    Hice’s endorsement and argument is part of a coordinated effort by the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative Christian legal aid society. Its members hope the IRS will challenge one or more of the 33 pastors across the United States who did what Hice did Sunday. They hope to overturn the no-endorsement regulation in court.

    Hice quoted the Bible and some of American’s Founding Fathers in making his case that he believed the regulation was unconstitutional. Hice said that he was following the historical norm in this nation’s history.

    Church leaders have a right to address moral and cultural issues, Hice said.

    “Or else we will find ourselves in America led by secularists and atheists.”

    http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/2008/09/28/pastors_IRS_regulations.html

  92. #93 Armchair Dissident
    September 29, 2008

    Is this the same organization that provides food stamps, educational grants, social security, homeless shelters, health clinics, food shelves, disaster relief, unemployment compensation, welfare payments, public safety, public schools, public libraries, Medicaid, Medicare, clean water and air, and employment training?

    Yeah, but, apart from the food stamps, educational grants, social security, homeless shelters, health clinics, food shelves, disaster relief, unemployment compensation, welfare payments, public safety, public schools, public libraries, Medicaid, Medicare, clean water and air, and employment training…

    ..What did the Romans do for us?

  93. #94 Natalie
    September 29, 2008

    EJ @ 50:

    I’ve never understood why a church losing its IRS tax exempt status would be that big of a deal, other than requiring a bit more paperwork and accountant fees. Most churches would have very little taxable income once they write off operating and charitable expenses. I suppose the clergy would lose some of their personal tax breaks, but it seems like that’s about it.

    Probably the biggest change for most churches would be that donations to said church would no longer be tax deductible. AFAIK donations to non-profits are only tax deductible for the donator if the non-profit is a 501(c)3. The churches may think that changing to a different non-profit category will negatively impact the amount of donations they receive.

  94. #95 BluesBassist
    September 29, 2008

    I’m an atheist, yet I oppose ending tax-exempt status for churches (or anyone, for that matter). I don’t really want to further entangle the state and religious institutions. It’s stolen (e.g. dirty) money.

    I’d prefer instead to reduce or eliminate (compulsory) taxes on everyone else. I’m personally much more afraid of IRS agents than I am of members of any clergy. The latter I can easily avoid, and I don’t favor giving yet more power to the former.

    It’s too bad that religious mysticism in metaphysics is simply replaced by most people with a secular version which worships it’s own invisible sky fairy: namely, the “collective” manifested, in practice, by the state. It’s really two sides of the same irrational coin.

    Personally, my mind is not for rent by any god or government.

  95. #96 Scott from Oregon
    September 29, 2008

    “Is this the same organization that provides food stamps, educational grants, social security, homeless shelters, health clinics, food shelves, disaster relief, unemployment compensation, welfare payments, public safety, public schools, public libraries, Medicaid, Medicare, clean water and air, and employment training?”

    Yep. It is also the one that killed a couple of million Vietnamese peasants and a huge amount of Iraqis, polluted the world with its war machines and spent ammo, not to mention burning up resources at a rate that boggles, puts people in jail for relieving pain with pot, tells homosexuals they are second class citizens, etc…

    All the good can be done locally, and all the bad can be minimized if we simply stop seeing Washington as the central place to do business.

  96. #97 Natalie
    September 29, 2008

    All the good can be done locally

    I’d believe that when I see it.

  97. #98 itisus
    September 29, 2008

    They are gambling on a McCain win and a full pack of right-wing Supremes by the time the case reaches them. If the IRS dings their churches for a couple of years, they may harvest more fleece from their sheep or simply close up shop and reappear as a new legal entity.

  98. #99 Gingerbaker
    September 29, 2008

    SfO:

    “All the good can be done locally, and all the bad can be minimized if we simply stop seeing Washington as the central place to do business.

    Right. So, it still gets done by government, but now there are 300,000 bureaucracies administering each program. And each one subject to the whims of the unwashed.

    …You are gay and you want housing subsidies? Sorry, you have us confused with a municipality that promotes the destruction of traditional family values.

    Sounds like a really really bad idea, Scott. Its called the United States for a reason. If you work at it, you can learn to like the good parts.

  99. #100 frog
    September 29, 2008

    Gingerbaker: …You are gay and you want housing subsidies? Sorry, you have us confused with a municipality that promotes the destruction of traditional family values.

    And the flip-side of that argument is DOMA. The fact that Scott is insane doesn’t mean all his ideas are bad. Currently we do have the problem that the feedback between good ideas in government are unlinked from their results.

    Scott is actually an example of that. You have vast rural swathes that suck up our tax dollar and then want to dictate to us how we spend our share. It’s a broken loop – they don’t realize that their ideas simply don’t work, because they have us – the urban, the coasters, the “liberals” to bail them out. Generation after generation, century after century.

  100. #101 Ichthyic
    September 29, 2008

    The fact that Scott is insane doesn’t mean all his ideas are bad.

    broken clock…

  101. #102 rjwest
    October 8, 2008

    I think you’re either joking or dreaming when you suggest that a great rush of revenue will come when churches lose exempt status. By their nature, the majority of churches are free-loaders, hucksters and cheats. It wasn’t always so… but ’tis now. The super-churches and other money-lenders in the temple will fold up shop and cross-train as clair-voiyants or what ever else is shady and lucrative. The genuinely caring people left will be the ones operating on a not for profit basis. Sad, isn’t it?

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