Pulpit Freedom Sunday Was A Failure Due To Bureaucracy

image of the IRS logo

Alliance Defending Freedom, which sponsored Pulpit Freedom Sunday on October 7th, claimed over a 1,000 pastors would be taking part in violating the tax laws prohibiting a tax exempt group, such as churches, from electioneering at the pulpit. If the law breaking pastors had done some basic research they would have seen that having a protest now was a waste of time. The IRS suspended investigations of churches in 2009 due to a federal law suit. Basically Pulpit Freedom Sunday was a failure.

As I posted previously:

On Sunday October 7th, Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative evangelical Christian group, will be promoting ‘Pulpit Freedom Sunday’. It’s an event where the ADF says it has 1,000 pastors pledged to violate Federal tax laws by preaching about the election, endorsing a candidate, and sending a video of their sermon to the IRS. Their stated point is that the tax law prohibiting endorsing specific candidates violates the pastor’s freedom of speech.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday Falsely Thinks Breaking The Law Is Freedom Of Speech

In that post I noted the IRS rarely enforces that tax law provision against a church. It seems I was more right than the ADF:

The Internal Revenue Service has suffered another setback in its effort to pursue an audit of a church in Minnesota in a case that has ramifications for the tax agency and churches nationwide.

A U.S. District Court judge in Minneapolis ruled that the Living Word Christian Center, in Brooklyn Park, Minn., does not have to comply with an IRS summons for information because the summons was not authorized by a government official of sufficient rank.

The ruling by Judge Ann D. Montgomery concurs with a decision in December by U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey J. Keyes.

Living Word argued that an April 2007 letter from the IRS alerting it about an inquiry into its finances, signed by the IRS’s director of exempt organizations for examinations, violated the Church Audit Procedures Act, a law that sets forth specific steps the IRS must follow in examinations of churches to protect against government intrusion into church affairs.

Court Rules Against IRS in Church-Audit Case

You can’t take action on a tax violation of a church if you can’t do an audit of their books. The court ruling was in 2009. The IRS suspended church audits since then and are still in the process of rule making to conform to the court ruling. The problem was the IRS changed who could approve the audits through regular employee work rule changes and not through the usual rule making process required for agency regulations.

So even if the pastors in the Pulpit Freedom Sunday protest sent their videos into the IRS it is unlikely to take any action until the rules on audits are finalized which means probably not before 2013.

(H/T Religion Clause for the link to the Chronicle of Philanthropy article)


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