Yesterday, I introduced the subject of the Alliance Defense Fund trying to get preachers to endorse candidates from the pulpit in order to challenge the restriction on tax-exempt organizations from endorsing candidates. As I said yesterday, the government say, "Issues, yes; candidates, no." And admittedly this is probably a bit of incumbent politicians protecting their turf. If they offend churches, they don’t want to be able to have churches mention them by name. Admittedly, this is probably part of the genesis of this policy.
I shake my head in amazement at the gall and foolishness of these people. No one is forbidding these churches from endorsing political candidates from the pulpit. No one is forbidding them from preaching what they believe the Bible says. They can preach whatever they want, but they cannot endorse specific candidates and maintain their tax-exempt status. There is no God-given RIGHT to be considered a tax-exempt organization. It is United States government policy. And every governmental policy has limits or conditions. And this is the condition of receiving this benefit from the US government. Obviously, I think it is a reasonable requirement. Maybe not consistent, but reasonable and within their proper jurisdiction to require.
The argument will be made that this is a first amendment issue. The first amendment to the US Constitution states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….
And it will be stated that restricting churches from endorsing candidates is prohibiting the free exercise of religion. However, (and I in no way pretend to be an attorney, nor do "I play one on TV", but I have watched these things for many years) as I stated above, the government is not forbidding churches from stating their endorsement of specific candidates. They are only forbidding it for churches who want to maintain their status as a tax-exempt organization. The issues, yes, the candidates, no. It makes total sense for the government to argue that this special privilege can be accompanied by special restrictions. If one does not want the special privilege, than one can get around the restriction. No one is going to arrest them and throw them in jail for endorsing a candidate. They will simply strip them of this special privilege.
There is no chance that these churches will be successful in the contemporary court system (nor SHOULD they be, in my opinion). A concern that I have, however, is that their efforts will result in the entire tax-exempt policy being thrown out by some unfriendly court (like the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in our area). If they were to so decide, taking things to the Supreme Court is such a crap shoot today that a court declaration such as that actually COULD prevail.
The majority of churches in the world and throughout history have not had this legal benefit that we enjoy. While most churches would survive losing it, it would cause great harm to many churches. I don’t think that these misguided churches led by the Alliance Defense Fund are working in the interest of anyone but their own publicity-seeking interests.
IMHO. Your thoughts?