Some analysis by Michael Peabody –

These pastors are deliberately challenging the IRS law prohibiting political endorsement from the pulpit. This shadows a story from a few years back when a pastor at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena endorsed Kerry. These pastors, however, have mostly endorsed John McCain as having the divine right of leadership and aren't waiting for the IRS to come to them – they are sending the IRS copies of their sermons.

Thus, it will be made not a matter of fact – i.e. whether there was actually an endorsement – but a matter of law – about the constitutionality of the IRS prohibition.

Of course, they do have the right to say what they want from the pulpit – the IRS will not take this away from them. But the IRS may take away their tax-exempt status. For the near term, at least until the law changes, parishioners can continue to support these political messages from their pastors, but they may find that their donations are not tax-deductible, just like movie tickets, or a night at the opera is not tax deductible. Even giving money directly to a candidate is not tax deductible.

The main reason for the IRS rule is that it prevents political candidates from gaining additional donations by laundering donations through tax-deductible charities. For instance, if I give $100 to Barack Obama, I cannot deduct it even though this money will be used to make campaign commercials, etc.

If I give the money to a pastor and then he or she makes a political speech in church, that should not be deductible either. If pastors want to play the political game, they need to abide by the campaign rules.

 

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