With the current wingnut freakout regarding the IRS and Tea Party as a backdrop I don’t have to scratch my head much to figure out why the IRS hasn’t dropped tax exemptions of churches campaigning for a candidate from their pulpits, but that doesn’t make it right.
The Internal Revenue Service was unable to suppress a lawsuit over its failure to audit thousand of churches that allegedly violated federal tax law by engaging in partisan advocacy.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman of the Western District of Wisconsin on Monday denied a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation against the IRS.
“If it is true that the IRS has a policy of not enforcing the prohibition on campaigning against religious organizations, then the IRS is conferring a benefit on religious organizations (the ability to participate in political campaigns) that it denies to all other 501(c)(3) organizations, including the Foundation,” Adelman wrote.
The Internal Revenue Code prohibits tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches, from intervening or participating in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate.
But many churches have openly defied the ban without consequences. In an annual event called “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” pastors from more than 1,000 churches have challenged the regulation by preaching about political topics. Some pastors even record their overtly partisan sermons and send them to the IRS.