The Associated Press has released news that “A group of ministers filed a complaint Monday with the Internal Revenue Service to stop a conservative organization from encouraging pastors to endorse or oppose political candidates…” (Ohio ministers challenge political pulpit plan, 9/9/2008). Apparently the American Defense Fund is encouraging pastors to violate the 501(c)(3) rule about candidate support.
I’m not sure why they are doing that, but I believe that the IRS 501(c)(3) rules violate the separation of church and state. It’s not that this action by the ADF violates the establishment clause, but that the IRS rules themselves violate the establishment clause. And the churches have been blind to it, but they’ve been blind to a lot of stuff.
I may be out on a limb here, but I don’t think so — and I’m not alone. If you want to get up to speed on the issue and are not aware of HushMoney.org, you should check it out. And if you want more, try The Unregistered Churches.org. This is not a simple issue, so be prepared to spend some time digging into it.
Again, it is not that the 501(c)(3) status maintains the separation of church and state by limiting what pastors can say from the pulpit (as if forbidding pastors’ support of candidates from the pulpit constitutes a wall of separation — it most certainly does not), but that the IRS rules are themselves the violation of the establishment clause, and a denial of the freedom of speech by pastors.
The separation of church and state means, among other things, that the church is not a taxable entity for civil government coffers. That was the historical situation prior to the establishment of the 501(c)(3) regulations by the IRS. The violation was initiated by civil government decades ago. (Well, maybe not because the IRS is not actually a government entity.) Taxation has always been the primary element regarding the separation of church and state because taxation is the civil government’s means of control. The one who is taxed is controlled by the one who taxes. Churches that voluntarily elect to become 501(c)(3) organizations have crossed the line of church/state separation.
We need to pray for the Lord’s guidance and mercy.