Be Wary of That Stranger in Church
Recently, there were reports in the mainstream media about the FBI soliciting bids on a contract that would monitor news reports about that law enforcement agency. Some outlets describe it as either a waste of taxpayer money, or a chilling exercise against a free press. The reasons are not given by the FBI but the ostensible one could be to determine how the media covers the FBI so that they can be more responsive and make necessary changes. Personally, I believe the FBI should be chasing and taking down the bad guys like bank robbers, kidnappers and terrorists and not embarking on a public relations campaign.
I mention this only because it has received more media attention than another, more insidious agreement recently reached as the result of a lawsuit. This is indicative of how the media circles the wagons when the media is the alleged target. For the bulk of his presidency, Obama has received a free pass from the mainstream media. Given the turmoil in the world, some interviewers are more concerned about Malia and Sasha’s attire with their softball questions. A perfect example is the large pass Obama received from the press until it was revealed the FBI was obtaining the call records of Associated Press reporters. Their answer: the IRS scandal was concocted by the GOP, but spying on AP reporters was a national sin worthy of condemnation.
Overlooked is a court settlement between the IRS and the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). That lawsuit took issue with a practice known as Pulpit Freedom Sunday which encourages pastors to preach on political topics. Specifically, the lawsuit targeted the IRS since tax-exempt entities and organizations are not supposed to be involved in politics.
With regards to religion and churches, this is a silly proposition which kind of negates the “wall of separation” argument on the Left. Churches and religion have been involved in politics since before our Constitution and Bill of Rights were ratified. Religious leaders were at the forefront of the abolitionist movement. The entire Progressive movement, which is the forerunner to today’s Left, can trace its roots to religious organizations and churches. It was churches where radical social change and justice were first proposed. The civil rights movement had its birth in the churches of the South. Obama’s church in Chicago run by Jeremiah Wright preaches radical socialism. Some feminist and women’s rights advocates can trace their beginnings to churches. Conversely, other churches and religions preach against abortion and homosexuality. Inner city black churches are where politicians go to seek endorsements from African-Americans.
The problem to the FFRF is the tax-exempt status of churches and religions. This “ban” on political commentary from the pulpit has existed since 1954, but IRS has never enforced the rule against religions. And there is a very good reason: it is likely unconstitutional. Pastors, preachers and priests do not surrender their First Amendment rights when they walk up to the pulpit. And churches are free to preach whatever they want free of government interference under the First Amendment.
From a practical standpoint, one has to wonder how this agreement will ever be enforced. For example, consider this Biblical passage: “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is an abomination.” Leviticus 18:22. A sermon or homily on this rather obvious prohibition against homosexuality could be construed as a political statement against gay rights in general in today’s world. Is the IRS to dictate to churches which Biblical passages should be explained and which should not? There are no clear-cut rules for which Biblical passages are or are not also political statements.
Ironically and eerily, the division of the IRS that would be responsible is the same one once headed by the notorious Lois Lerner. As part of her tyranny against Tea Party groups, many were asked about their reading habits, church affiliations, and what was the subject of sermons in those churches. It is bad enough that Christianity is targeted in the Muslim world, but when churches of all faiths are targeted domestically, it is inexcusable.
Which brings me to the two ironic hypocrisies of this issue. Clearly, the FFRF is a Leftist organization dedicated to the total eradication of religion from public life as their name suggests. It is the same Left that rails against the government monitoring the sermons of radical imams in the local mosque when, in fact, radical Islam poses an infinitely greater risk to national security than the most radical Right wing activist, church-going member. Thus, it becomes perfectly fine for the IRS to monitor the sermons in churches for possible political content, but the government is forbidden from monitoring sermons in mosques calling for violence. There is something seriously askew here.
The second point is that the Left is beholden to this notion of separation of church and state. What can create a greater gap of separation than not taxing churches, or threatening them with loss of their tax-exempt status should they cross some invisible political commentary line. It should be noted that in the entirety of this Nation’s history, churches have never been taxed whether the IRS or 501(c)(3) status existed or not. The Left’s “wall of separation between church and state” is like an overplayed fiddle. It was and is a myth. It is born of a letter written to alleviate the fears of a religious denomination in the 18th century.
In conclusion, I would dare the IRS to enforce this agreement. Send IRS agents to sit in the back pews and surreptitiously record a Sunday sermon, or keep notes on a Jewish service for political commentary. Then act by revoking that church’s tax exempt status to once and for all settle this issue in an Appeals Court. Hopefully then the FFRF and its members and contributors could go to hell.