Living in the South I don't follow very many Conservative media outlets. I don't need to. Their messages are like the weather -- like it or not I'm sure to be exposed to them. But via Twitter and Daily Caller I came upon something that had to go into my Facebook status.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS.
1. And it came to pass that on on Sunday, October 7, in the Year of our Lord 2012, preachers in America were organized by politicians.
2. On that day political types advanced the argument that the "Johnson amendment" to the Tax Code of 1954 was "unconstitutional."
3. Those same political types, all have a political agenda, to allow and encourage church leaders to join Caesar and his forces in secular conflicts.
In the classic movie “The Sting,” Paul Newman explains to Robert Redford that in the most sophisticated swindles, the victim never even figures out he’s been conned.
Well, America’s churches got swindled big time in 1954. They lost their freedom of speech and a significant part of their freedom of religion.
There are two separate scandals here. The first is that Lyndon Johnson surreptitiously snuck a provision into the tax code that requires the IRS to regulate the content of every pastor’s sermon in this free land, and to threaten the tax deductibility of donations to any church that lobbies or takes sides in elections.
The second scandal is the fact that the churches of America have allowed this blatantly unconstitutional government censorship to persist for 58 years. It’s the most sophisticated kind of sting. Our churches haven’t even recognized they’ve been had.
[snip] There was no notice, no hearings, and no debate. Johnson never mentioned churches. Congress has never voted to impose content censorship on America’s churches. But the IRS immediately swept churches into Johnson’s amendment.
And then the mainline denominations acquiesced in their own censorship! They didn’t stand up and fight for their right and obligation to provide moral leadership in American self-government. That abdication has led to a dramatic decline in those churches’ membership and America’s culture since 1954.
[snip] Now a group of lawyers, The Alliance Defending Freedom, has organized a campaign to force a test case. For the last four years, pastors across America have banded together on Pulpit Freedom Sunday to speak out on elections one Sunday a year, and send their sermons to the IRS. Last year 539 pastors participated and the IRS blinked once again. This year’s PFS will be October 7. Every Pastor who believes his or her pulpit should be free from government censorship should sign up and participate at PulpitFreedom.org.
I will leave it to the reader to chase this rabbit. I have stated my own views as succinctly as possible above. We seem to be approaching what Orwell called Newspeak.
Already a couple of comments at DC caught my eye.
►I think we can end this unfair interference in the religious and free speech rights of churches in a much simpler way: end tax exemptions for donations to religious organizations altogether. You give your post-tax dollars to them, and they can spend them, just like you would have yourself. Ministers can choose to just live off that money as if they were a member of the donor's family, but of course without any kind of employment contract or other guarantees. If churches want regular employment contracts, they should have to form a commercial, secular subsidiary just like everybody else.
Let's reserve tax exempt status (i.e., where donations can be deducted from your income tax) for organizations that actually serve the public as a whole, instead of a limited club of religious zealots.
►I disagree with the premis that 'the churchs' were hoodwinked. They were not. Johnson may have 'slipped' that exemption into the tax code but to avoid that exemption all the church had to do was refuse to accept it. How can I say, 'Jesus is Lord of my life but Satan is handing out the candy and I want some.' The pastors should have 'at once' rose up to this offense to the first amendment and their stated goal to 'preach the gospel' of Christ.
Jesus said that those who follow Him are 'in' the world but not 'of' the world. These pastors wanted to pocket the money and not confront the 'evil'. They have participated in this and they will not be able to state some rationalization on the day of judgement. Seriously, 'one day a year' to speak the truth and eat from the table of God? Wow! What heros', what boldness......what crap! When they grow a set talk to us again about 'brave souls'.
This is going nowhere. But it is indicative of how deep the resentment of an ancien regime runs against a long-overdue change in American politics spearheaded by Barack Obama and a younger, more diverse and growing constituency.
One of several touchstones of faith in my adult life has been the Catholic Worker, founded by Dorothy Day in the Thirties, which continues to this day in community hospitality houses across the country. Some have drifted from the idea, but one of the founding principles was that tax-deductibility was not part of their plan. This has allowed them to speak truth to power with straightforward impunity.
We assure our readers that we try to get rid of our gifts as fast as they are given to us. But the threat still hangs over us of prosecution for not paying income tax. We are not tax-exempt. On principle we refuse to pay income tax, because so great a portion goes for wars, preparation for wars (defense, it is termed), and providing other countries with billion of dollars to buy our instruments of war and material and plants to make their own.