Pastor’s Pulpit Endorsement Violates Federal Tax Law...Or Does It?

Here's the email - My comments follow. - Rev. Lowrey

Watchdog Group Says Baptist Pastor’s Pulpit Endorsement Violates Federal Tax Law

June 10, 2010

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service about a Rapid City, S.D., church whose pastor endorsed a gubernatorial candidate during a church service.

The Rev. H. Wayne Williams, pastor of Liberty Baptist Tabernacle, endorsed state Sen. Gordon Howie, who was seeking the Republican nomination for governor. Williams’ May 16 endorsement from the pulpit was reported in a press release by the Howie campaign and in the Rapid City Journal.

“This church is tax exempt and may not intervene in elections,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “

In a letter to the IRS today, Lynn outlined the case against Liberty Baptist. He noted that Howie’s campaign issued a press release on May 18 trumpeting the endorsement. In that press release, Williams stated, “I have no fear of the I.R.S.”

Read the letter to the IRS (PDF)

Read the AU staff member affidavit (PDF)

Doc responds.

Here is the email I sent back to American's United.

I don't see anywhere in these two documents where it is established that the church has 501.c.3 status.

I'm sure you know that churches are automatically tax exempt and do not have to obtain 501.c.3.

Those churches that do not apply for 501.c.3 recognition are under no restrictions that could affect their exempt status.

Perhaps this church is 501.c.3. and is subject to such restrictions.

If so, I think your documents should have reflected that.

As a minister of a free church that rejects the interference of government in religious affairs and has chosen to not apply for 501.c.3 I feel it is the religious duty of ministers to speak out against corruption in the community and to show support for people of integrity who are campaigning for office.

I believe that the 501.c.3 status has been promoted to churches, by playing on their ignorance, faithlessness and greed in an effort specifically intentioned to silence the churches voice of moral warning regarding government.

Providing a moral compass is the primary duty of a shepherd for his flock.

501.c.3 as applied to religious organizations is an evil that essentially invalidates to a very large degree that mission.

Placing churches under the control of government actually violates the anti-establishment clause of the 1st amendment and 501.c.3 churches do not merit it's protections.

501.c.3 churches are indisputably government churches.

God and His creatures don't need them.

Reverend Gregory Lowrey
UBU Ministries


Want to read more about the history of 501.c.3 and it's impact.

I only see two opportunities for misunderstanding in this brief history.

1) Where it says "The First Amendment clearly places the church outside the jurisdiction of the civil government:" (avoided if you understand that "places" = affirms)

The 1st Amendment does not grant to churches exemption from government control. What it does do is formally recognize that religion and free exercise are inherent and inalienable rights that are simply beyond the legitimate grasp of government and defines those rights in the USA as inviolable and Constitutionally Protected. (unless of course a church applies for 501.c.3 status)

2) "These organizations are exempt automatically if they meet the requirements of section 501(c)(3)."

Actually, these organizations are not required to meet the requirements of 501.c.3. Only organizations who have applied for 501.c.3 recognition can be required to meet this test.

The IRS further states in IRS pub. 557 that for Churches which have not sought IRS recognition and are not 501.c.3 but are FREE CHURCHES, the IRS considers only two determining factors:

“To determine whether an organization meets the religious purposes test of section 501(c)(3), the IRS maintains two basic guidelines.
1. That the particular religious beliefs of the organization are truly and sincerely held.
2. That the practices and rituals associated with the organization’s religious belief or creed are not illegal or contrary to clearly defined public policy.
If there is a clear showing that the beliefs (or doctrines) are sincerely held by those professing them, the IRS will not question the religious nature of those beliefs.”

This is the only "Test" and the IRS is careful to describe it as "guidelines" as the IRS recognizes it does not have the authority to test the authenticity of religious exercise.

Even, part 2 of these guidelines can withstand a legal challenge if part 1 is met.

What the IRS is saying is simply that in cases where part 2 is not met, they feel they have the right to take a closer look at part 1.

They do not have that right though and even the courts have no right to consider any case unless it clearly demonstrates that the natural rights of others are being infringed such as in the fraud charges against Jim Bakker.

Government cannot claim religious exercise to be constrained by cultural context or social values - only equal rights to free exercise. (we have a few illegal laws in this regard)

No comments:

Post a Comment