Churches are exempt from paying taxes in the United States. Some of us don't think they should be exempt, but they are. However, there are rules that churches must abide by to remain tax exempt. One of those rules is that they cannot participate in elections. Here's how the tax code puts it:
If any of the activities (whether or not substantial) of your organization consist of participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office, your organization will not qualify for tax-exempt status under 501 (c) (3). Such participation or intervention includes the publishing or distributing of statements.
Now that's some pretty clear language. Churches simply cannot take sides in this country's political elections -- either for or against any candidate. This does not mean that ministers, preachers, priests, or other church officials cannot take a political stand and make it known. They just cannot do it on behalf of the church (or religion) and/or make it seem that the electoral activity is a part of church policy, belief, or dogma. In other words, no preacher can preach from the pulpit in a religious service that the church (or religion) supports or opposes any candidate or political party -- and documents, videos, and such, cannot be distributed by the church (or religion) on behalf of, or opposed to any candidate or political party.
If a church or religious organization that is tax-exempt does take sides in a political contest, then it is violating the tax laws of the United States -- and it should lose its tax-exempt status. But there are a number of right-wing, mostly fundamentalist, ministers that don't like this law. They are not happy with their right to state their own opinion on politics. They want to make their own opinions the official policy of their church (or religion). They know that an official stance of the church will sway the votes of church members more than the personal opinion of a preacher.
Of course, these ministers are right-wing Republicans who oppose the re-election of President Obama, and they want to preach from their pulpits that a vote for the president would be a vote against christianity. And next Sunday (October 7th) nearly 1,000 of these right-wing preachers are going to intentionally violate the law. They are going to preach from their pulpits, during their church services, that their members should vote against the president (or for the Republican candidate). And they have said they will tape their political sermons and send them to the IRS -- virtually daring them to try and take away their church's tax-exempt status.
Now, I don't expect the government to do anything about this before election day. The Democrats don't want to make it look like they are opposing christianity in general. And sadly, due to the timidity Democrats have shown regarding religion, they probably won't even do anything after election day. But they should! The IRS should revoke the tax-exempt status of every one of the churches where this law-breaking occurs -- and that status should not be restored until those churches promise and demonstrate (by terminating those law-breaking ministers and preachers) that such activity will not happen again in the future.
These ministers want their churches to be exempt from all laws. That's their misguided view of religious freedom. It's also a ridiculous view. We do not exempt religious organizations from other laws. For example, churches cannot condone and allow pedophilia, or polygamy. Churches cannot steal the money or property of others (such things must be willingly and freely given). Churches cannot order or carry out the murder of those who are not believers, or torture those who don't abide by church policy. Why should tax law be any different from other laws that we expect churches to obey?
These ministers and preachers are wrong, and their law-breaking should be punished. We are a nation of laws, and that should include everyone -- even right-wing preachers.