Independent Christian Voice

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IRS goes after church for anti-war sermon

From the Associated Press:

One of the state's largest and most liberal churches could lose its tax-exempt status because of an anti-war sermon that a former rector delivered two days before the 2004 presidential election, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

In his sermon, the Rev. George F. Regas did not urge parishioners at All Saints Episcopal Church to support either George Bush or his opponent, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. But he was sharply critical of the Iraq war and Bush's tax cuts.

The IRS in a June 9 letter warned the church that its tax-exempt status was in jeopardy because the federal tax code prohibits such organizations from intervening in political campaigns and elections. The church's current rector, J. Edwin Bacon, told his congregation about the problem on Sunday.

"It's important for everyone to understand that the IRS concerns are not supported by the facts," he told the congregation.

If the IRS is successful, it would have a chilling effect on the First Amendment — not just freedom of religion, but also freedom of speech. Congress needs to rewrite federal code that no longer ties a church's exemption status based on speech, whether written or spoken. It would be unfortunate — and unAmerican — to muzzle churches for fear of losing their exempt status.

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