(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) The House of Representatives voted to include parts of the “Free Speech Fairness Act” to the GOP tax bill that would prohibit government discrimination of religious organizations.
The bill would allow churches, and all 501(c)(3) organizations, to openly advocate political opinions.
Practically, pastors would be allowed to discuss and advocate for political views from the pulpit.
Churches and other non-profits have had their speech limited since 1954.
In an article for The Hill, Rep. Jody Hice, R-Georgia, traced the limitations on free speech back to Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson.
“In order to achieve tax-exempt status, churches and nonprofits have essentially given away their right to free speech, else they risk facing the wrath of the IRS, a federal agency that has the power to destroy lives,” Hice wrote.
Christiana Holcomb, Legal Counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, supported the House’s decision to include the Free Speech Fairness Act in the tax bill.
“America’s pastors don’t need a federal tax agency to police their sermons, and so we commend those in the House who supported free speech fairness language in the amended tax bill,” she said. “Churches and their pastors have a constitutionally protected freedom to decide for themselves what they want to say or not say.”
The bill would give pastors the same rights as citizens in political campaigns.
They can endorse candidates, speak for or against candidates, and encourage their congregation to vote for specific candidates.
The IRS has investigated religious organizations in the past and clearly has the power to destroy organizations it ideologically opposes.
“Recent polling demonstrates that religious leaders don’t want to be burdened by the continual threat of an IRS investigation and potential penalties based simply on what they say from the pulpit,” Holcomb said.
Hice, a former pastor himself, says religious leaders often don’t discuss politics due to intimidation.
“Every election cycle, pastors across our country receive alarming letters from anti-religious organizations threatening to report the church to the IRS should they engage on topics considered to be an ‘issue advocacy.’ Even worse, the proverbial elephant in the room is the agency’s inconsistent approach to applying the law and its failure to clarify standards for enforcement,” Hice wrote.
The GOP tax bill would clarify the IRS’s role in regulating the political speech of churches and allow pastors to clearly speak their conscience.Click here for reuse options!
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