5/23/13

Politicizing Religion

All this uproar over the IRS 'persecuting' so-called 'Christian' organizations is interesting.

But, mostly hot air.

Here's the deal. Back in October 2012, an organization of over 1400 Protestant pastors decided that they would challenge the IRS, and that they would preach partisan politics from the pulpit. They called this "Pulpit Freedom Sunday."That wasn't the beginning of it; it was just a high point. They've been going on about it for years.

They took the position that the fact that they could not claim tax-exempt status while politicizing religion was somehow an affront against free speech. In other words, they wanted to have their cake, and eat it too. We have some preachers in The Smile Hi who were in that up to their necks.

Of course, it had - and has - nothing to do with free speech. No one is telling these characters that they cannot politicize religion. Certainly the Republicans are not, for they do it all the time. What these characters are being told is ... 'if you want your tax-exempt status, you can't politicize religion.'

But they flung down the gauntlet, and it would appear the IRS picked it up.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday: Pastors challenge the IRS

Then, when these other so-called 'religious organizations' starting filing for tax-exempt status, they came under this IRS scrutiny. How could the IRS be sure that these were not more of the same - claiming to be 'religious' and wanting the tax exempt status, yet clearly carrying a political agenda?

So the IRS was doing what the IRS is supposed to do - grilling these clowns to find out what they really were up to.

Much has been made of the claim that the IRS asked some of these people for examples of their prayers. That has sent them into paroxysms of outrage. How dare the IRS ask about that?

Well ... most of these outfits are claiming association with low-church Protestantism. They do not have a liturgy, like the Roman and Eastern churches or the high-church Protestants. If you ask the Roman church for an example of their prayer system, they can produce the Missal and a liturgical tradition that goes back for centuries. If you ask a low church for an example of their prayer tradition, they generally can't produce it, because they don't have one. So the question then becomes ... can you give some examples of your church's prayers? A 'real' church should be able to do that. And once again, this is not a matter of free speech; it is not a matter of freedom of religion. It arises only because these so-called 'religious' groups are seeking tax exempt status. If they weren't doing that, no one would be asking them questions about anything.

It's like this ... in many Protestant denominations, you really don't need an education to be a preacher; you don't need much of anything, other than to have awakened one morning and decided to be a preacher. Some Protestant denominations do require their preachers to be educated and many are highly educated and well-trained. But the bottom line is, anyone claiming to have a calling can be a preacher.  The Protestants don't even have the concept of apostolic succession, though some claim that nonetheless. If I wanted to call myself Reverend Mikey of the First Church of the Sainted Watermelon Seeds of the Arkansas Valley ... there's nothing to stop me from doing so.  But should I have tax exempt status as a 'church?' Perhaps the IRS should ask some questions about what I really do? Ask for some examples of my 'congregations' prayer tradition? How about asking for my mission statement, and some proof that I meet that? How about financials? Sennnnnnnnd me some mo' munnnnny cuz Jeeeeezus needs a new Mercedes ... and that tax exemption!

So I don't see that part of the 'scandal' as a big deal. The preachers asked for it, and they got it. They need to get their big girl panties on and quit whining. It's isn't the government persecuting Christians. It's 'Christians' looking to preach specific partisan politics, and still get their freebies from the government in the form of tax exempt status.

But then beyond the 'religious' groups, we have a similar thing with these so-called 'conservative' groups, who are clearly political. But how political? In what kinds of political activities do they engage? Do they fall within the tax exempt status guidelines? The IRS has a duty to question them about all that.

Where the IRS has screwed the pooch on this is through their foot-dragging on reviewing these applications and subsequently granting tax exempt status to those groups that qualify for them. What makes this worse is that they have not been foot-dragging on applications from so-called 'liberal' groups. You'd have to be blind, deaf, and dumb not to know that unions engage heavily in political lobbying, and in acquiring huge sums of money for leftie political candidates. The SEIU, for example, arguably makes up a significant part of Obama's base. So why is the IRS not subjecting these groups to the same level of scrutiny as the 'conservative' groups?

The IRS cannot be political, yet it seems that they have done just that. And that is why they need to be raked over the Congressional coals, and why Congress needs to do some serious house-cleaning in the IRS.