Before the last election, more than 1,000 churches across this nation preached partisan politics from the pulpit. This was an intentional violation of this country's tax laws (which says that tax-free charities, like churches, must avoid engaging in partisan politics or lose their tax-free status). And so far, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has done nothing about it. Either through total incompetence or a fear of the religious community, the IRS seems willing to let religious organizations break the law with impunity.
Personally, I am shocked that the IRS has taken no action. This criminal behavior was not unintentional or accidental -- it was deliberate. And it should have already been punished. The offending churches should have already had their tax-free status revoked.
Fortunately, I am not alone in this belief that tax-free organizations should obey our laws -- just as individual citizens are expected to do. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has filed suit against the IRS. But instead of taking this as an impetus to just do their job, the IRS tried to get the suit thrown out of court. They were not successful. In ruling against the IRS motion to dismiss the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman wrote:
“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.”
The FFRF and the judge are both correct. It is not fair for the IRS to treat religious organizations differently than it treats other organizations with the same tax exemption. The right-wing religious fundamentalists who intentionally disobeyed the law say that not allowing them to engage in partisan politics is a violation of their religious freedom. That is a ridiculous assertion. They are just being asked to obey the law. If they want to engage in partisan politics, they are free to do so -- as long as they pay their taxes (like other political organizations are required to do).
This is not a new law, and polls have shown that most Americans do not want religious organizations preaching partisan politics from the pulpit (during religious services). It is time for the IRS to do their job, and punish these lawbreakers.
Frankly, I don't understand why religious organizations are given tax-free status anyway. They are a business -- one of the biggest businesses in this country. And granting them a tax-free status makes those people who are not members of the particular religion subsidize that religion by paying higher taxes to make up for what the religions don't pay. And this is not a small sum. It is estimated that governments lose about $82.5 billion a year by giving religion it's tax exemptions -- and that's a very conservative estimate (since that figure doesn't include local income and property tax subsidies, sales tax subsidies, and many other tax-free advantages of religion).
Making religious institutions pay their fair share of taxes would not be a violation of religious freedom. These organizations benefit from government just as much as citizens and businesses do (both of which pay for those benefits through taxation). And paying taxes would not curb their freedom to worship as they please. I can understand why they don't want to pay taxes (since all individuals and businesses would also love to not have to pay taxes), but I can't think of any justifiable reason why they should not do so.
And I am not trying to pick on christians here. They just happen to be the dominant religion in this country. All religious organizations should be required to pay taxes -- regardless of what religion they represent.