Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » November 2005 » Late to the party again.....

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11/09/2005: Late to the party again.....


It was Monday that I actually got word about the IRS threatening All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, CA, over an anti-war sermon preached there by the church's former rector back on October 31, 2004.

The Internal Revenue Service has warned one of Southern California's largest and most liberal churches that it is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status because of an antiwar sermon two days before the 2004 presidential election.

Rector J. Edwin Bacon of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena told many congregants during morning services Sunday that a guest sermon by the church's former rector, the Rev. George F. Regas, on Oct. 31, 2004, had prompted a letter from the IRS.

In his sermon, Regas, who from the pulpit opposed both the Vietnam War and 1991's Gulf War, imagined Jesus participating in a political debate with then-candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry. Regas said that "good people of profound faith" could vote for either man, and did not tell parishioners whom to support.

But he criticized the war in Iraq, saying that Jesus would have told Bush, "Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster."

On June 9, the church received a letter from the IRS stating that "a reasonable belief exists that you may not be tax-exempt as a church " The federal tax code prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns and elections.

The letter went on to say that "our concerns are based on a Nov. 1, 2004, newspaper article in the Los Angeles Times and a sermon presented at the All Saints Church discussed in the article."

The IRS cited The Times story's description of the sermon as a "searing indictment of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq" and noted that the sermon described "tax cuts as inimical to the values of Jesus."
Today Amy Sullivan, guest blogging for Kevin Drum, has a good comment on that story:
BUSH'S WAR ON PEOPLE OF FAITH....Today we learn that Bush's IRS is investigating a prominent liberal Episcopal church because of a sermon last fall in which the minister condemned Bush's policy in Iraq. (No word on whether the agency is also going after the Baptist church that kicked out members who voted for John Kerry. Or the churches that helped out the Bush/Cheney campaign last year by sending in their membership directories. Or the Catholic priests who told parishioners it would be a sin to vote for Kerry.)
The thing that really pisses me off about this is that in my lifetime, for various reasons, I've attended plenty of Catholic masses, and if I had a nickel for every time I've heard a Catholic priest order his congregants (in no uncertain terms) to vote for a "pro-life" candidate by name, I could give away millions to various charitable causes, and still fund a very decadent retirement for myself for the rest of my life. And I'm not aware of the IRS threatening those Catholic churches about their tax exemptions.
Don't cry for the Episcopalians, though. They had an out. The IRS offered them a sweet deal: Admit that you violated the law, never do it again, and we'll drop the investigation.

That kind of "deal" is usually called "intimidation."

If a Democratic administration went after a conservative church and threatened its tax-exempt status over statements made during a sermon, it's safe to assume all hell would break loose. You wouldn't be able to turn on a cable channel without hearing some host intoning, "Is there a Democratic war on faith?" Conservatives would fill the airwaves, newsprint, and blog pages with condemnations of "liberal bigots who hate religion." Can we expect a similar response from the left now?
Actually, the "solution" to this problem is to simply end the tax exemption for religious organizations. Then who cares if they preach politics or not.

Len on 11.09.05 @ 12:01 PM CST



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