Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Charity and Pastor Lay Down Gauntlet on Preaching Politics from the Pulpit

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty has issued a challenge to the IRS to investigate the Calvary Assembly of God in Algoma, Wisconsin based on a sermon delivered by the church's Pastor, Kenneth Taylor.  It made the challenge public through an open letter from Pastor Taylor apparently published as an advertisement in today's Wall Street Journal. 

According to the letter, Pastor Taylor delivered a sermon about voting based on the salt of the Earth and light of the world passage from Matthew 5:13-16.  The church did not broadcast the sermon, but did videotape it.  The videotape can be accessed through the Fund's website.  In the video, Pastor Taylor indicates he is preaching on the Sunday immediately preceding an election, although it is not completely clear to which election he is referring.  The letter, however, refers to his having preached the sermon during the "[l]ast election."  The video is also heavily censored, perhaps out of concern that making the more political parts of the video available on the web could undermine the Pastor's position that his sermon only reached his in-person congregation.  The letter strongly suggests that the contents of the censored portions would be objectionable to the IRS, as it states "If you didn't like the All Saints sermon, you would have hated mine!" in a reference to the much published IRS audit of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California based on a sermon given at that church.  That audit ended with the IRS issuing a letter saying the sermon violated the prohibition on campaign intervention by charities but also that the IRS was choosing not to impose any penalties.  More information about that audit can be found on the All Saints' website.

(Full Disclosure:  The firm with which I am Of Counsel represented All Saints Episcopal Church with respect to the IRS audit.)

LHM

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/nonprofit/2008/01/charity-and-pas.html

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