Tax Exemption Without Limitation - Now That's Christianity genre: Gaylingual & Hip-Gnosis & Uncivil Unions

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The gall of the religious right never ceases to amaze. Time and again, they demonstrate that hypocrisy is an essential element of their ideology. While many of these zealots frequently demonstrate their willingness to preach one thing and do another, their latest endeavor seems determined to take it to a whole new level.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a legal advocate for the right wing, is calling on churches to voice their positions on political candidates en masse on September 28th in order to create the grounds to challenge the constitutionality of the current tax code. As it now stands, the IRS guidelines prohibit churches from directly endorsing or rejecting political candidates in order to maintain their tax exempt status. The ADF wants to overturn the provision on the grounds that it circumvents their First Amendment rights and is therefore unconstitutional.

From The Washington Post:

The Alliance Defense Fund, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., will ask the clergy to deliver a sermon about specific candidates Sept. 28. If the action triggers an IRS investigation, the legal group will sue to overturn the federal rules, which were enacted in 1954.

Under the IRS code, churches can distribute voter guides, run voter registration drives, hold forums on public policy and invite politicians to speak at their congregations.

However, they cannot endorse a candidate, and their political activity cannot be biased for or against a candidate, directly or indirectly.

The Alliance Defense Fund said Friday that the regulations amount to an unconstitutional limit on free speech and government intrusion into religion.

From WorldNetDaily:

"Churches have for too long feared the loss of tax exempt status arising from speech in the pulpit addressing candidates for office," the ADF's white paper on the campaign confirmed. "Rather than risk confrontation, pastors have self-censored their speech, ignoring blatant immorality in government and foregoing the opportunities to praise moral government leaders.

"ADF believes that IRS restrictions on religious expression from the pulpit, whenever the IRS characterizes it as 'political,' is unconstitutional. After 50 years of threats and intimidation, churches should confront the IRS directly and reclaim the expressive rights guaranteed to them in the United States Constitution," the group said.

"The intimidation of churches by leftist groups using the IRS has grown to a point that ADF has no choice but to respond," said Erik Stanley, senior counsel for the ADF. "The number of threats being reported to ADF is growing because of the aggressive campaign to unlawfully silence the church.

Where to begin. First, I doubt the courts would rule in favor of the ADF since churches have always had the option to forego their tax exempt status. The bottom line - they elect their tax status knowing the conditions. I personally believe they shouldn't be tax exempt and it wouldn't surprise me if this misguided effort opens the door to discussing that possibility.

Beyond that, the dividing line between church and state is a complex matter that has been addressed numerous times by the courts. I suspect that the ADF believes that the shift to the right in the Supreme Court under the Bush administration may be to their benefit. Regardless, there is ample precedent that would need to be ignored in order for ADF to prevail.

Setting aside the legal argument, I want to focus on some of the inconsistent positions that emanate from the religious right...positions that lead me and many others to decry their penchant for hypocrisy. Two issues jump off the page.

The first is federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. President Bush and his supporters have argued that the government shouldn't provide funding for such research. The rationale for their objections is predicated upon ethical concerns that have their origin in religious doctrine. At the same time, he and those who support the ban on federal funding loudly note that they aren't preventing state and private funding for this research.

Hence the inconsistency is revealed. On the one hand, the religious right believes that it is appropriate for the president to deny funding for research that could assist numerous Americans that have no religious objections to the use of embryonic stem cells. They argue that those in favor of doing so can still conduct the research...just without the endorsement (funding) of the federal government. In other words, no one's rights are being denied so long as the research is allowed to proceed. If you favor it, fund it privately...but your federal government isn't going to use your money to do so.

On the other hand, those who endorse the logic in the above argument believe the federal government shouldn't be allowed to prohibit churches from engaging in partisan politicking in exchange for granting them an exemption from taxation. Where does that leave us? Well, it says that these individuals want the government to forego funding research that conflicts with their religious beliefs while also allowing them to use the pulpits of the churches they support to influence the outcome of elections...without those churches ever being required to pay taxation. If that isn't wanting to have it both ways, what is?

Contrast that with the secular citizen who pays taxes and wants the government to fund research that might save lives and one begins to see the absurdity of the system these religious demagogues favor. Truth be told, many of these religious organizations have already established "arms length" political entities that circumvent the IRS codes. Anyone who doubts their aspirations for the establishment of a theocracy ought to think again. The ADF directive is simply the next step in a well-crafted agenda.

The second item that illuminates the inconsistency in the rationale of the religious right is gay marriage. Proponents of measures to ban same-sex marriages contend that same-sex couples can achieve many of the same benefits that are afforded to married couples by utilizing the appropriate legal documentation. Of course they fail to mention that the lion's share of benefits cannot be achieved through any means...especially those that relate to taxation.

At the same time, they argue that the preservation of the institution of marriage and it's religious connotations is reasonable so long as the government isn't preventing gays from forming the relationships they choose. In other words, it's reasonable to restrict marriage to one man and one woman so long as the government allows gays to form the relationships they choose. The bottom line message to gays - you elect your tax status knowing the conditions.

When gays assert that this is an unfair system, the religious right is the first to cite those objections as evidence of the militant homosexual agenda and the desire of gays to force society to accept and embrace their alternative lifestyle.

Again, we begin to see the inconsistency. On the one hand, the religious right argues that the government has no obligation to recognize same-sex unions...and those who enter into them do so knowing the precedent conditions. You want a gay spouse, you don't benefit from the advantageous tax status afforded to recognized marriages. On the other hand, they want the government to recognize religious doctrine when determining whose marriages will receive beneficial treatment while also wanting their churches to receive preferential tax status absent conditions...conditions that are simply intended to uphold the separation of church and state.

Similar arguments can be made with regards to the religious right's positions on a number of issues. This includes a woman's right to have an abortion and the rights of an individual or their family members to make end of life decisions. Time and again, the religious right seeks to insert and impose their beliefs on those who do not share them while simultaneously asking the government to adopt a laissez-faire mentality with regards to monitoring the separation of church and state.

I find it amusing that those who routinely point out that the spiritual realm supersedes all else spend so much of their time in the pursuit of all things political and material. Then again, the newly emerging prosperity theology suggests that the attainment of success (wealth and worldly measures) is undoubtedly evidence that one is appropriately aligned with the Lord.

Silly me...why on earth would I conclude that any of the above positions are hypocritical. I just pray that God will help me abandon rational and reasoned thought in favor of the fabrications that come with faith. I need to accept that the teachings of Jesus Christ have nothing to do with today's Christianity. Come to think of it, maybe that's the reason the religious right insists that everyone has to be born again.

Image courtesy of TBogg

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