Hundreds of defiant pastors will be joining forces next month for “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” an event intended as a “head-on constitutional challenge” to the rules prohibiting churches from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Participation has grown every year since 2008 when the movement began. Pastors participating in this October 7th event will be speaking unequivocally for and/or against specific presidential candidates, risking revocation of their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. A risk they welcome, apparently. They will be recording each sermon and sending it in a care package to the IRS. They are hoping the IRS takes action against one or all of the pastors so they can then litigate and (eventually) take it all the way up to the Supreme Court.
I’m not sure churches will have a leg to stand on in challenging the constitutionality of this 58-year-old tax code provision. It would be one thing if the federal government were unilaterally restricting what church representatives can and cannot say over the pulpit, but what about the tax relief offered to non-profit organizations!? Its a dual tax subsidy for churches: (1) their income is not taxed, and (2) donations to them are tax-deductible.
Sounds like a fun event though — a real American kind of thing to do. Constitutional law lawyer, tax lawyer, and interested citizen alike will be watching to see how the IRS responds.