Is the IRS really paying attention to “all” saints?

September 28, 2006, 6:40 pm | Posted by

“The IRS Works in Mysterious Ways” opines the Los Angeles Times on the federal investigation into the subtext of a sermon preached at the Pasadena, CA, All Saints Episcopal Church.

The sermon, “What If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush“, was delivered by the Rev. George F. Regas two days before the ’04 election. Now the IRS has annouced that it will investigate to see if the church violated its tax status.

But the issue is more complicated. In fact, recently US Representative Adam Schiff wrote a letter to the IRS and the Secretary of the Treasury in which he expresses serious concern over the fact that the IRS said that they would drop the case if All Saints admits that it did wrong. That part of the case is espeically chilling for those familiar with the logic of 17th century convictions and the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Many in the blogopshere – on the left and right – wonder: is the IRS being even-handed?

Conservative Riddleblog announces:

“While I don’t agree with this church on virtually anything–it is far-left both theologically and politically speaking–good on them for standing up to the IRS and for refusing to turn over documents, sermons, newsletters, etc, as demanded! . . . God will deal with this church’s rejection of orthodox theology and the gospel in his own time and way. But what they preach is none of Uncle Sam’s business.”

Irenic Thoughts says,“The sermon was critical of both candidates for their views on war and poverty yet the IRS noted the statements against the President as politicking on behalf of John Kerry.

Below a commentor wrote:

. . .”I remember the reputation of the old Episcopal Church as one with old families with old money sipping single malt Scotch and bridge clubs. There was even a joke about using the wrong fork at dinner and going you know where since it was a sin to to be an Episcopalian and not know proper etiquette. Now I look at the church and I’m proud. TEC has really become a church that wants to build the Kingdom of God right here, right now. We stand up and say war is wrong, social injustice is a sin, discrimination is clearly against the teachings of the Gospel, Etc…I’d be proud to be a member of All Saints.”

Socially conservative Thoughts and News writes: I and most Evangelical Christians would not agree with them doctrinally on many issues. . .such as acceptance of homosexual lifestyles. . . but the [ IRS investigation of All Saints] affects both equally, as well as those who attend synagogues, mosques and other religious worship centers.”

On the question of equality, the Los Angeles Daily News notes, “In Los Angeles alone, 39 churches, synagogues and Buddhist temples were identified by political candidates as contributing more than $15,000 to their election campaigns since 1998, according to city Ethics Commission records. . While the federal tax agency has taken on All Saints, some say it may be overlooking others’ political donations as well as whether churches are using federal funds solely for intended social programs. . .the Rev. Ed Bacon of All Saints notes his church has never violated federal law by contributing to a political candidate.”

Here’s the rector’s sermon: The IRS Goes to Church. And here’s a recent Los Angeles Times article and a NPR story on the situation.

Julie writing on her blog, Truth, Justice and the American Way points out: “The summons even requests utility bills to establish costs associated with hosting Regas’ speech . . .from the very beginning of our constitutional republic, America’s pastors and ministers have courageously engaged the culture. We must not allow the IRS, or any other government agency, to now trample this heritage.

Over at Street Prophets, Pastor Dan writes:

“Apparently, they’re trying to shake loose evidence that All Saints has been supporting partisan candidates. The request for utility bills matches a similar demand for ‘overhead expenses,’ which the church takes to be a reference to staff salaries. That seems like nitpicking to me, especially since Regas didn’t endorse or oppose any candidates in his sermon. But I don’t know the first thing about the IRS’ calculus.”

Always helpful, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life provides a Guide on Internal Revenue Code Restrictions on the Political Activity of Religious Organizations.

In light of All Saints, Talk to Action explores the problems surrounding the IRS and church policking.

ReligioNews blog notes: “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.’ It would be mighty hard to be the conscience of the country if clergy could not speak about the country’s rights and wrongs.”

Smells like Snapper writes: “When I heard the most recent report on NPR this morning, I had to scramble to find my blood pressure medication before I blew a cardiovascular gasket. . .All Saints’ is one of my favorite haunts. I really love the place–who wouldn’t love a rector from Mississippi making it big in LA?”

Hollywood pastor Ryan Bell posts photos from the Sep 22, press conference in which the church leaders announced that they would resist the IRS and go to court.

And finally, a former member of All Saints, the Rev. Anne Howard writes in the Beatitudes Society newsletter:

“I first learned about courageous preaching as a member of Regas’ church back in the 1970s. It was his preaching that caused me to leave my job as a newspaper reporter and come to work at All Saints as the Director of the Interfaith Center to Reverse the Arms Race. It was his preaching that helped me connect that anti-nuclear work with faith, and eventually led me to seminary. And it is the legacy of his preaching that has stayed with me through my years as a parish priest, prodding me to speak the truth when I might otherwise stay silent. . . .”

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What’s New in the Neighborhood

September 27, 2006, 3:55 pm | Posted by

A regular Wednesday feature here at Faith Public Life, here’s what’s happening around the neighborhood thus far this week.

On Street Prophets, Pastor Dan gives  you all you need to know about our do-nothing Congress. Oh wait, yesterday it did pass a bill that would "cut off financial awards to plaintiffs who bring successful lawsuits against expressions of religion like Christmas displays on government grounds. The aim of the measure, approved 244 to 173, is to discourage

lawsuits against local, state and federal governments over issues of separation of church and state."

If you missed your morning coffee induced heart-pounding visit Talk to Action where court stripping looks evan more exciting than you think. Joan points out that the main Representative (Hostettler R-IN) behind this act said this:

"When the courts make unconstitutional decisions, we should not enforce

them. Federal courts have no army or navy. The court can opine, decide,

talk about, sing, whatever it wants to do. We’re not saying they can’t

do that. At the end of the day, we’re saying the court can’t enforce

its opinions."

JSpot posts Stephen Colbert’s Days of Repentence for Jews clip and also features Nathan Newman on how California taxpayers won’t have to subsidize anti-union campaigns.

Chuck Currie speaks up on torture:

"President Bush is pressuring the Senate to act on the compromise

agreement this week, citing the need for intelligence gathering to

maintain strong national security.  As people of faith, we are called

to stand against policies and practices that violate fundamental human

dignity."

TAKE ACTION AGAINST THE TORTURE COMPROMISE HERE.

Philadelphia-based Leming writes on CrossLeft about the evangelical School for Social Change at Eastern University.

Muslim Wake Up wonders about the reaction within Isreal over the recent war with Hezbollah.

City of Brass writes: "among the reasoned responses to the Pope is Tariq Ramadan’s essay,

which argues that the real context of the Pope’s address was to

emphatically place Islam within the category of Other with which no

true dialog can be undertaken."

Christo Lumen tells the Parable of the Good Homosexual.

Jim, over at Disples from the Left, provides a short ethical reflection on the recent Values Voters Conference.

Mainstream Baptist notes the growing discontent with the Iraq war. Where? Among retired military leadership. Why? Because Iran is looming and they don’t want to go through another Rummy mess.

Answering the Rev. Deb Haffner’s questions about sex on the edges of the public discussion, the Rev. Meg Riley writes about the importance of coalition building within the progressive movement. She states:

"Over the years, in coalitions, I have watched a number of areas of

disagreement–notably about the Middle East, abortion, and gay rights,

take down too many good efforts. I think it is key to leave room for

disagreement on some issues while moving forward on others."

Even the Devils Believe posts "via Lutheran Zephyr, Beliefnet has a story about a Muslim group in Florida

that is sending $5000 in seed money to Palestine to help rebuild

Christian churches that were burned there. The group’s spokesperson

points out that the churches should be protected under the tenets of

Islam. Allahu Akbar, and many prayers that we Christians can return to

our Muslim brothers and sisters the love expressed in this gesture."

Johnny points out: "The enormity of what is happening in Utah cannot be understated.  They are embracing the future in a way no other state has – this truly is a progressive policy from one of our most religiously devout states."

Finally, listen to Provoke Radio! This week "don’t miss this fascinating story of one man’s awakening to the social

justice message of the Gospels.

Guest: Mr. Brian McLaren, best selling author of such books as, ‘The

Secret Message of Jesus’ and others. Brian is a leader in the Emergent

community and a man Time Magazine referred to as a ‘paradigm shifter’.

Special guest host: Dr. Steven Miles, Professor of Theology, Loyola

College of Maryland."

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AUDIO: Rev. Jennifer Butler with Bob Kincaid on the Religious Right Globalized

September 27, 2006, 9:59 am | Posted by

Rev. Jennifer Butler, Executive Director of Faith in Public Life, recently joined radio host Bob Kincaid to discuss her new book, The Christian Right Globalized. Rev. Butler reveals how the Religious Right, after decades of building an infrastructure to impact American politics, is moving to use international institutions to advance their policy agenda on a global scale and threaten gains made for women’s rights, human rights, and public health across the globe.

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“Non-partisan” Values Voters Summit shows its true partisan loyalty

September 26, 2006, 5:09 pm | Posted by

The supposedly non-partisan Values Voters Summit sponsored by the Family Research Council this weekend was rife with slurs against Democrats–who had apparently been forgotten when the invitations were sent out.

James Dobson told the values voters that shouldn’t be afraid to admit that their country is at war with Muslims who are out to kill Americans. “We’re in a war and it’s time that we recognized it,” he said.

Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana felt certain that “conservative Americans are beginning to awaken to the perils of a Democratic Congress,” but seemed less certain about where his alliances lie in the immigration debate. After invoking the Bible to show that illegal immigrants ought to be treated with respect, he went on to say that they should all be expelled so as not to prove a threat to the American culture.

A certain bias was apparent even in the agenda for the summit. One workshop outlined a Get Out the Vote tactic for churches which instructed people to go through their church directory and to pretend they were pollsters from ABC News in order to find out how the members of the congregation were planning to vote. Also on the schedule was a discussion about health care titled “The Future of Health Care: HillaryCare or Values-Driven Health Care?” referring to Senator Clinton’s 1993 plan for national health care–a plan which Republicans rejected for its “socialist” tendencies.

And in an attempt to show up Chavez, Jerry Falwell informed a cheering crowd that for values voters, Hillary Clinton is a foe even greater than the devil: “I certainly hope that Hillary is the candidate. She has $300 million so far. But I hope she’s the candidate. Because nothing will energize my [constituency] like Hillary Clinton. If Lucifer ran, he wouldn’t.”

Yet Falwell had no worries about Republicans turning out to vote even without Clinton–or the devil–in the race:”I think we’re going to keep the House and the Senate,” he said. “I think the Lord will take care of that.”

Others were less confident. James Dobson feared that Republicans might be swayed by their dissatisfaction with President Bush: “There is disillusionment out there with Republicans. That worries me greatly.” Bishop Harry Jackson of College Park, MD echoed Dobson’s concerns saying that “if they [Christian Conservatives] don’t come to the polls, we’re in trouble.”

Rev. Don Wildmon even went so far as to critique the Republican Party, though it’s apparent he won’t be giving up on them any time soon: “We’re disgusted somewhat with some of the Republicans,” he said, “but we’d be in a whole lot worse shape with the Democrats. So, if you can’t get the whole loaf, take a half a loaf.” Talk about a non-partisan event.

This seemingly blatant violation of church-state separation has been called “just plain wrong” by Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, who claimed that the summit “violates tax law, it damages the integrity of religion and it harms our democracy.” Yet it seems strange coming on the tails of the IRS investigation of All Saints Church in California for a single sermon against the war in Iraq that this partisan display hasn’t earned more criticism.

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AUDIO: Tony Campolo with Laura Ingraham

September 25, 2006, 1:22 pm | Posted by

Listen in as Dr. Tony Campolo talks about the Red Letter Christians and reminds Laura Ingraham about the words to the Lord’s Prayer. Audio to the right…

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