There are ways the tax code can be used to gag churches despite the First Amendment.
“I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means – except by getting off his back.” – Leo Tolstoy
It’s been said that the path to hell is paved with good intentions. Well, those allegedly good intentions are rarely that. Most of the time, the stones on the path to hell are markers drenched in the blood of others. The good intentions? Only good insofar as they allow for the forward momentum of liars, thieves, and crooks.
Several days ago, the wall of church and state was breached, and the content of sermons was questioned. According to Fox:
“The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.“
Within hours of this story breaking, the pressure was mounting on Houston, and its mayor to step back, and rescind the subpoenas. Texas Republican Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott weighed in, as did Texas Senator Ted Cruz, each condemning the actions of Parker; Cruz even calling the incident a “grotesque abuse of power.” However, Parker held on by her claws, sending out Tweets indicating she wasn’t going to let go:
“If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game. Were instructions given on filling out anti-HERO petition?”
Suddenly, several days after the issuance of the subpoenas, and the posturing, Parker backed off, telling reporters on Wednesday that the subpoenas were “too broad.”
“It’s not about what did you preach on last Sunday…It should have been clarified, it will be clarified.”
Obviously, Mayor Parker never expected the national media to pick up the story of her gross abuse of power. She thought she could do whatever she wanted within Houston, and walk away scot free. Thankfully, she was wrong. But her actions represent a very chilling trend in the way the government is beginning to oppress religion by circumventing the first amendment.
Because churches are 501(c)(3) organizations, and are tax exempt, they are prohibited from making specific endorsement in political races. According toIRS.gov: “Currently, the law prohibits political campaign activity by charities and churches by defining a 501(c)(3) organization as one ‘which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.‘”
That being said, churches can still discuss any religious issues that may also happen be political in nature. Many issues that are considered political are also moral issues that are studied in churches on a regular basis. Abortion, homosexuality, etc, are topics which have obvious relevance in politics, but are deeply rooted in theology as well, and as such, are sometimes examined in churches. In those examinations, abortion, and homosexuality are often condemned as going against the law of nature, as written by God.
The subpoenas allegedly targeted “sermons dealing with homosexuality, [and] gender identity.” Now, homosexuality, and gender identity are relevant moral topics which do not fall into the category of “political endorsements,” yet they were targeted under the subpoenas. And that is exactly how the government is going to use 501(c)(3) status to oppress religious liberty.
Because churches fall under the 501(c)(3) tax exempt category, the government has a certain authority over them; they can tighten restrictions, as has been done multiple times since the laws were written. Now that gay marriage has become a front-and-center national issue, left leaning politicians in positions of power will do everything they can to manipulate the rules of the 501(c)(3) status in order to silence all opposition. The same applies to abortion. They will do this all under the guise of good intentions, and with a manufactured sense of fairness. They will say that churches shouldn’t be allowed to preach against homosexual conduct because it is so closely tied to gay marriage. They will say that because gay marriage is clearly a political issue, any preaching against it, or against anything related to it constitutes specific endorsements of candidates who do not support it. They will call preaching against gay marriage an “intervention” into the foray of campaigns, designed specifically to sway congregants away from liberal candidates who support it. And because you cannot prove a negative, no church will be able to say that their preaching against gay marriage was not on behalf of a particular candidate. Once again, the same applies to abortion. There will be accusations of indirect interventions, which it will be argued are as bad as direct interventions.
These restrictions will become tighter, and more intrusive, until churches are essentially gagged. The only option I see is for churches to give up their 501(c)(3) status. In time, that is what will have to happen, because the government—by which I mean liberals—will never stop taking inches where they can get them. They will never stop trying to silence those who oppose their agenda.