Under the U.S. tax code, non-profit organizations such as churches may express views on any issue, but they jeopardize their favorable tax-exempt status if they speak for or against any political candidate. “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” has been staged annually since 2008 by a group called the Alliance Defending Freedom. Its aim is to provoke a challenge from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in order to file a lawsuit and have its argument out in court. The event has grown steadily in size, but the IRS has yet to respond – even though the pastors tape their sermons and mail them to the agency.
It has grown steadily in size, with just 33 pastors taking part in 2008, rising to 539 last year and to a record 1,477 this year. It is not entirely clear why the IRS has stayed silent and the agency did not respond to a request for comment.
My two cents
I’ve heard of this before, but I didn’t know that the pastors were mailing their sermons to the IRS! It would be interesting to work at the IRS, see these tapes coming in, and I wonder if they see the sender’s address and they just know it’s another sermon. I wonder if this is all about political tension; if the state went after the pastors, there would be a public outcry and it would get panned by everyone.
I like how pastors are asserting themselves, while challenging the capricious and unbiblical nature of tax rules such as these. Maybe one day I can find a sermon of this type on YouTube (if anyone finds one, please let me know).
Byrnes, N. (2012). Pulpit Freedom Sunday: Pastors Defy Tax Rules, Back Political Candidates. Available: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/08/pulpit-freedom-sunday-pastors-defy-tax-rules-back-political-candidates_n_1948284.html. Last accessed 30th Nov 2012.