The House of Representatives, just back from its August recess, is poised to pass a major spending bill. Tucked within that bill is Section 116, a provision that would make it nearly impossible for the Internal Revenue Service to investigate tax-exempt houses of worship that have endorsed or opposed political candidates in violation of the Johnson Amendment. The fate of that provision could be decided today.
It seems in recent years that whenever churches break the federal law prohibiting houses of worship and other 501(c)(3) non-profits from endorsing or opposing candidates, the Internal Revenue Service treats those violations with a shrug. And with all the talk this election season about repealing that anti-politicking law, Americans United felt it necessary to ask the IRS what it plans to do going forward to enforce a law that is good for both democracy and faith.
Yesterday was “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” an annual event sponsored by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a large Religious Right legal group, during which members of the clergy are urged to violate federal law by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office from the pulpit.
A private-sector committee that advises the Internal Revenue Service branch that oversees tax-exempt organizations says the IRS is “compromising its relevancy” by failing to revise the procedures that govern audits of churches.
In a lengthy report covering many areas of tax exemption, the Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities (ACT) said last week that the IRS’s leadership has dropped the ball when it comes to policing houses of worship that violate federal law.
Over the weekend, a movie called “God’s Not Dead 2” opened in theaters around the nation. I haven’t seen the film and don’t intend to -- I'm not going to give them my money, and if I'm going to watch a cheesy movie, I prefer one featuring rubber monsters battling for supremacy in Tokyo -- but I’ve been reading about it online.
Despite the “2” in its title, the film isn’t really a sequel. It’s a follow-up to an earlier movie. Both releases feature has-been and never-been actors and represent a fairly new genre in Christian filmmaking – call it the cinema of persecution.