IRS agrees to probe churches preaching politics, says settlement to atheist lawsuit


From the Oklahoman:

America’s tax collector, already in hot water over allegations it unfairly targeted conservative nonprofits seeking tax exemptions, has agreed to investigate churches and pastors who preach politics from the pulpit, reports show.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit group of atheists and agnostics who aim “to keep religion and government separate,” filed a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service in 2012, claiming the tax agency didn’t pursue investigations of religious organizations — specifically churches — that participated in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday.” The event is organized through the law firm Alliance Defending Freedom, which urged pastors to violate a 60-year-old IRS rule banning such speech.

Passed in 1954, the so-called Johnson Amendment bars non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing a candidate. The measure, at the behest of then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, was meant to target specific political opponents, The Washington Times noted last year, but its use of Section 501©3 of the Internal Revenue Code extended the prohibition to tax-exempt religious groups.

We all know that churches should be prohibited from taking positions on political matters. They should not be allowed to endorse or oppose candidates. But this doesn’t go far enough. After all, abortion is a political matter. Churches should not be allowed to talk about it. LGBT issues are political matters and should likewise be off limits. In fact, any kind of this repressive “morality” stuff should be strictly off limits.

On the other hand, though, supporting increased government social spending, lobbying for the rights of anybody at all who wishes to come to this great country and increase Democratic registration numbers, and opposition to the antiquated and repressive laws that prohibit the dead from exercising their elective franchise or, heaven forbid, prohibit non-citizens from voting or prohibiting people from voting multiple times in multiple precincts is clearly not political and should be not only allowed, but subsidized by the government.

</sarcasm off>



OK, I get to be the first to ask the obvious question. Is there any chance such a probe would be applied equally to churches opposed to or supportive of the current administration’s policies?

One in two?
One in four?
One in a million?

The first amendment was written primarily to keep government out of churches.


I’m quite sure Jeremiah Wright will be exempt


As will Al Sharpton (whom I believe has never produced evidence of valid ministerial ordination, but still styles himself “Rev.”) . It will also be interesting to see whether the IRS interests itself in certain New York politicians who literally campaign from pulpits.


Though I may not agree entirely with the groups insisting on this probe, I do see their point. I am against politics on the altar. It does not belong there, and if the Church is to honor her non-profit status, she really cannot allow politics on the altar.

She can teach the sanctity of life, she can encourage people to live life in the manner of Christ and without sin, but she cannot and should not tell us how to vote, recommend political leaders and the like. It is not her business who we vote for and why, and if she is doing this she is in violation of the law. Sorry folks.

I am fed up with politics on the altar. If I want to hear a political debate I will turn on the idiot box. I don’t go to Mass to hear the Priests push for a candidate. Sick of it.


I’ve never heard one single priest in my 15 years as a Catholic endorse any candidate or put down any candidate.


When did they repeal the First Amendment?


The reason for Pulpit Freedom Sunday is to coerce/compel the IRS to sue the churches, and they have historically refused. They sometimes send letters to churches threatening legal action, but, when the church says, “Go ahead, sue me” the IRS backs down.

The constitution guarantees freedom of religion and free speech. The IRS can not stifle free speech under the guise of tax exemption. They know this, which is why they never actually sue any church. Just harassing letters and contacts.

So, sue ahead. The result will be that the court will rule that the IRS can not impose a political speech gag order on churches.


LOVE IT. :thumbsup:


The IRS can start with some of those inner city churches that seem to love every Democratic candidate that wants to use their pulpits for a few minutes.


Nor have I. In my decades of Mass attendance at many parishes, never once have I heard a political homily. I’ve never heard a candidate even mentioned.


Oh yeh! Remember Hillary campaigning/preaching from the pulpit @ a southern black congregation w/ a thick southern drawl?


Yes. This, I believe is a grey area. But, I doubt the Catholic Church has anything to worry about. We were here before the founding of this nation; therefore, there is no way we are an american political group. However, I am aware there are factions or individuals who like to weasel around in the Church and play politics, but not the type of politics you are referring to.


Change in the story yesterday. I made a thread with it but apparently one of the moderators didn’t like it and it was removed.


It may be your opinion that priests shouldn’t talk about politics from the pulpit, but do you really think you should impose your opinion as law, and fine any clergyman who disagrees with your opinion? The Catechism says, “It is a part of the Church’s mission to pass moral judgments even in matters related to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it.” (CCC 2246) I think we ought to see more politics in the pulpit.

she cannot and should not tell us how to vote, recommend political leaders and the like. It is not her business who we vote for and why, and if she is doing this she is in violation of the law. Sorry folks.

First, it’s not a violation of the law for a priest to tell you who they think you should vote for from the pulpit. The first amendment doesn’t make an exception for priests in the pulpit.

Second, the Church does tell us how to vote. It “does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals.” (Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life #4)

Third, the Church tells us who good candidates are. “[A]ny legislative body must – as attested by indubitable experience – gather in her womb a select group of men, spiritually eminent and strong [of] character, who consider themselves as representatives of the entire people and not as representatives of a crowd… A select group of men of strong Christian conviction [and] judgment, fair and safe… men of learning clear and healthy, firm of purpose and straights, men especially capable, by virtue of the authority that emanates from their pure consciousness and widely radiates around them, to be guides and leaders…” (Pius XII, Benignitas et Humanitas Section 2)

It seems to me that if the Church does not permit us to vote for certain laws, and gives us a general description of who we should elect as candidates, then it is up to us to follow those instructions and our priests to encourage us in the process. Does that make sense?


I have never actually heard politics from the pulpit either. In fact, the voice of politics is all but absent in parishes I have attended. I have even gone to several Protestant churches with friends over the years and have not heard this either.

I actually wish I would hear more from our priest on this as I think having an informed Catholic conscience would translate well at the voting polls. :shrug:


When Obama was elected in 2008. :wink: :stuck_out_tongue: :shrug:


In violation of what law?

The First Amendment protects:
~Freedom of speech.
~Freedom of the press.
~Freedom to peaceably assemble.
~Freedom of religion.

I think three of these four protections apply to this thread.

I am fed up with politics on the altar. If I want to hear a political debate I will turn on the idiot box. I don’t go to Mass to hear the Priests push for a candidate. Sick of it.

I agree that politics have invaded too much of our lives, but if there is an issue that the Holy Spirit calls upon a priest to address; it is his duty to address it. I am certain that the clergy are as sick of American politics as the rest of us…

I don’t think the Church has ever “told” anyone who to vote for. When was the last time the USCCB endorsed anyone for public office?


There was a Cathoic (Charles Carroll) singer of the DofI and eight Catholics that singed the Contatution. :thumbsup:


Nor I in many more years than that.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit