TV preacher Pat Robertson's top lawyer Jay Sekulow has issued a new fund-raising appeal via e-mail that is only 17 paragraphs long – and he manages to cram a falsehood into just about each one.
This hysterical screed attacks Americans United for daring to remind religious leaders that federal law bars non-profit groups, including houses of worship, from endorsing or opposing political candidates. In Sekulow's war against AU, truth quickly becomes the first causality.
Here are a couple of choice whoppers from this missive along with the truth:
Sekulow Claim: The Internal Revenue Service can close your church. Yes, you read that correctly ... the IRS. The same organization you file your tax return with each April 15th has the power to shut down your house of worship - because of a vague, half-century-old law.
The Truth: The IRS can take away a church's tax-exempt status for violating the "no-partisan-politicking" law. It has done this exactly once in American history. More common sanctions include warnings and fines. The tax agency has no power to order a church to close.
Sekulow Claim: This obscure law is being used by Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) and others to intimidate churches into silence on moral issues...
The Truth: The provision in the Internal Revenue Code that Sekulow refers to was passed in 1954. It is well known among those who work in the religious and non-profit community. Any lawyer worth his or her salt who advises religious leaders would know about it. The IRS publicizes the law's provisions every election year. It's hardly "obscure."
Sekulow Claim: Churches are threatened with lawsuits and the revocation of their tax-exempt status. Ministers are intimidated into silence on topics like abortion, same-sex marriage, and other crucial issues of the day.
The Truth: The law bars non-profit, 501(c)(3) groups from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office. Speaking out on issues like same-sex marriage, abortion and immigration is protected. Pastors do it all of the time with no penalty. No church has been threatened with a lawsuit because its pastor spoke out on a political issue. If filed, such a suit would quickly fail.
Sekulow Claim: Because of Americans United, the IRS is keeping a close eye on a group of religious leaders who make up the Pennsylvania Pastors Network - an issues-oriented public policy group. AU insists that the Network's political organizing effort is really just a thinly veiled push to re-elect U.S Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA).
The Truth: The IRS has said nothing to indicate that it is monitoring the Pennsylvania Pastors Network. However, there may be grounds for an investigation. Unlike Sekulow, an AU representative attended the Network's inaugural meeting in Valley Forge, Pa., and noted that it clearly appeared to be an organizing effort on Santorum's behalf. Santorum was invited to address the group and did so via a DVD projected onto a jumbo screen. His opponent was not given a similar invitation.
Sekulow Claim: At this very moment - with crucial House and Senate seats at stake in upcoming fall elections - many church pastors and Christian leaders are silent ... intimidated by the AU's threats of action against their churches and groups.
The Truth: AU isn't intimidating anyone. The American people and most pastors oppose pulpit electioneering, recognizing that it's not the church's place to play a partisan role. By mentioning the November election, Sekulow makes his goals clear: He and other Religious Right leaders want to turn our houses of worship into cogs in candidates' political machines. Federal law and the will of the people will put a stop to that.
Here's the bottom line: Robertson and Sekulow have built their entire religio-political empire on a tissue of lies, but this mailing is so chockfull of misrepresentations that it reaches new depths of deception. Sekulow may claim to be educating pastors about a perceived threat, but after reading a mailing this over the top, one can't help but conclude that he has another purpose in mind: scaring pastors half to death so they will be moved to transfer some hard-earned money from their wallets to Sekulow's already fat bank account.