Pastors have decided to stand together and defy the IRS by talking to their congregation about politics, even going so far as to endorse and oppose candidates, reports The Washington Post.
While pastors are still currently allowed to preach about gay marriage and abortion, according to current regulations, endorsing or opposing specific candidates is against the law. The movement is called Pulpit Freedom Sunday, and has exploded in the last six years to a total of 1,600 pastors, up from just over 30 pastors a few years ago. Pastors have generally supported Republicans, with one pastor favoring Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell over Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.
However, in one case, Jim Garlow at Skyline Church told his congregation he firmly supports California Democratic Rep. Scott Peters over Republican challenger Carl DeMaio, arguing DeMaio, a gay candidate, presents the danger of forwarding a homosexual agenda.
The IRS has up until now been extremely reluctant to enforce tax laws in this arena, leading some groups, like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, to attempt to sue the IRS, in order to force them to investigate churches. Once it was revealed the agency was quietly investigating 92 churches for possible violations of the law, the organization dropped the lawsuit.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has assured the public that unusually quiet activity from the agency does not imply that “somehow we are doing something very different, and we are going to show up either more aggressively or more often, in a different way than we have in the past.” As the new head of the agency, Koskinen has had to be cautious in his public relations in light of last year’s scandal, where the IRS admitted it had been targeting conservative non-profits.
The ultimate goal of Pulpit Freedom Sunday is to remove the tax law completely, which at the moment is supposed to prohibit pastors from endorsing or opposing candidates.
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