(Conservators of the Establishment Clause want to know.)
05 SEPTEMBER 2014
Churches across the nation are gearing up for Pulpit Freedom Sunday on October 5th, when they unite to decry what essentially amounts to a gag order placed on anyone preaching anything from a pulpit if it departs from the Johnson Amendment of 1954, which states (rather unconstitutionally 1), that organizations exempted from federal income tax may not…
…participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.
The text of the Amendment appears in Title 26 (§501) of the U.S. Code, the collection of America’s federal laws and statutes. If frequency of occurrence of words in the Code is any indication, Christianity is already the most legislated of the world’s top three religions: the words “church” and “Christian” appear 187 times compared to “synagogue,” “Jew” and “Jewish” (8 times) and “mosque,” “Islam” and “Muslim” (14). 2
The three religions are distinctly defined, but in only one section of the entire Code (intersecting in a statute pertaining to civil rights crimes): §18 USC 247 Damage to religious property; obstruction of persons in the free exercise of religious beliefs:
As used in this section [the entire Code], the term “religious real property” means any church, synagogue, mosque, religious cemetery, or other religious real property, including fixtures or religious objects contained within a place of religious worship.
As religious organizations, all three are exempted from payment of federal taxes pursuant to Section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code; but restrictions on tax-exempt inquiries and investigations are imposed only on churches: §26 USC 7611.
Federally sanctioned religious discrimination or historically habitual Congressional oversight? You decide, but such a disparity is sufficient to discount the justness of any law and, especially in this case, since the imbalance was reinforced two months ago by an IRS decision, in response to a lawsuit filed by atheists, to “investigate pulpit freedom Sunday pastors” this year, without any mention of any serious intent to investigate Muslim clerics or Jewish rabbis, any actions in opposition to the Amendment could be perceived only as in protest to IRS targeting of Christians and not in defiance of federal law.
…the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. 3
As another of the curiosities widening the Administration’s divide between what is said and done (a sort of “do as I say, not as I do” permission slip), Obama freely admitted on Constitution Day 2008, that his own pastor preached politics in church.
I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.
That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.
And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. 4
There is, however, a more pervasive, if not subversive, power grab at play by the IRS than can be justified by presidential rhetoric. (President Obama’s cited “truism” is neither old nor true; particularly in the case of Christians on Sunday mornings, when, almost predictably and by definition, the least segregated hour occurs wherever in the world Christianity is practiced.) Coupled with the pending investigations of Christian pastors, Title 26’s statute permitting investigative restrictions only on churches cuts right into the core of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits government actions that unduly favor one religion over another and from unduly preferring religion over non-religion, or non-religion over religion.
Does not the disfavoring of one religion invariably inure to the favor of the others?
It should also be known that Title 26 of the Code, which is labeled “Internal Revenue Code,” was never enacted as positive law, so it exists as something of an hodgepodge of disorganized statutes, which the Internal Revenue Service “borrows” as its handbook. In fact, the lack of a clear definition for the word “church” in the U.S.C. may be directly attributed to its non-positive law status, since, among other things (like the fact that it can be rebutted by showing that the wording in an underlying statute is different), only a positive law title’s codification is guaranteed to have resolved inconsistent laws, eliminated duplicate provisions, and clarified ambiguities.
Lastly, many believe the IRS has no authority as a non-governmental entity, and as the privately owned Federal Reserve’s collection agency, to legally reference, much less enforce, any of the Title’s provisions, especially when doing so would demonstrate the most egregious display of religious discrimination in America’s history of religious freedom and the separation of church and state.
[AN ENLIGHTENING discussion, which includes Q & A input from AT LEAST ONE TTB employee, may be read online., particularly this comment. The entire page is recommended reading for any serious student in search of an answer to the question, “Is Title 26 of the U. S. Code actually enforceable by the I.R.S. as the Internal Revenue Code?”].
[Click here to contact your legislators.]