Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Contempt From the Tax Exempt

More chicanery under the guise of religion.

In Ohio, complaints were filed in April with the Internal Revenue Service by 56 clergy members against two "tax exempt" churches in the Columbus area who were active in President Bush's narrow Ohio win in 2004.

"Spiritual warfare," spouts Rev. Russell Johnson, pastor of the Fairfield Christian Church, one of the two offending institutions. "There's still freedom of speech in this country and it should apply to Christians, as well. People need to get out of their pews, out from behind stained-glass windows, and shine a light for what is good and right...." as the Reverend sees it, that is.

We couldn't agree more, Reverend. Get out the vote! Support your candidate. But, don't do it from the pulpit, the church or church-related activities and expect to retain your tax exempt status.

Rev. Johnson is the chairman of the Ohio Restoration Project. Among the project's objectives is to recruit "Patriot Pastors" to become politically active and ready to register voters "able to shine a light for Godly candidates in the 2006 election cycle," according to their Web site.

The IRS rules specify that charities that are granted a tax exemption because they serve the public may not "participate in or intervene in...any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office."

The role of the clergy and churches in elective politics reflects the growing activism and influence of religious conservatives in recent years. The GOP and the Bush White House encouraged and profited from this activism. Can we look to them to pursue the enforcement of the tax exempt status?

Our country still is a nation of laws, not of religious dogma, or notions of which candidate is deemed "Godly" and which isn't....we're not an Iran with an Ayatollah (although Pat Robertson tried his best).

We're expecting the IRS to do its job and crack down on ALL institutions who don't pay taxes, yet want to exert a lion's share of influence over our electoral process.

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