Churches already have so many unwarranted privileges that it’s simply being greedy when they also flout the few laws that constrain them. ProPublica exposes what we already knew was happening everywhere: churches ignoring the law to meddle in politics.
ProPublica and The Texas Tribune have found 20 apparent violations in the past two years of the Johnson Amendment, a law that prohibits church leaders from intervening in political campaigns. Two occurred in the last two weeks as candidates crisscross Texas vying for votes. The number of potential violations found by the news outlets is greater than the total number of churches the IRS has investigated for intervening in political campaigns in the past decade, according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
Under the law, pastors can endorse candidates in their personal capacities outside of church and weigh in on political issues from the pulpit as long as they don’t veer into support or condemnation of a particular candidate. But the law prohibits pastors from endorsing candidates during official church functions such as sermons.
Violations can lead to the revocation of a church’s tax-exempt status.
Oooh, what a terrifying punishment.
Since the IRS has been unable to enforce the law, I suggest cutting through all the hesitations and simply revoke the tax-exempt status of all churches. There’s no legitimate reason that setting up a panhandling shop and calling it a god’s house should make its owners free of property and income taxes. Start rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, you know.