The IRS sent a warning letter to pastors attending the Faith Leaders Summit meeting in Washington over the weekend that certain political activities were drawing close to threatening their tax-exempt status.
Pastors are free to endorse or oppose candidates, campaign for them, or make contributions to their campaigns so long as those activities are done individually and do not give the appearance that the activity is coming from the church. That alone should give the Catholic Bishops pause, though we know it won’t.
The warning comes as religious communities are upping the stakes in the battle over religious liberty in this country. Conservatives see individual free exercise rights as a trump to anti-discrimination and equality initiatives and are pressing the matter with the Obama administration.
Given the level of actual political activity coming from the pulpit these days the IRS should be putting faith communities on notice. If they want to organize and lobby, the way the Catholic Bishops have, then they need to give up their tax exempt status or risk corrupting both politics and faith beyond recognition.
Photo from Gerry Dincher via flickr.