Monday, November 07, 2005

None Dare Call It Selective Enforcement!

An Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, has received a warning from the IRS that it might lose its tax exempt status because of what were perceived to be political comments made from the pulpit in 2004, the Los Angeles Times reported today.

No, this notice did not go out to one of the American Catholic bishops who warned Catholics that they risked committing a mortal sin if they voted for John Kerry or other Catholic candidates who supported a woman's right to reproductive choice.

Nor did it go to any of the Protestant pastors who warned that votes for Democrats were votes to force gay marriages into every hamlet in the country.

Instead, the warning went to a church where a guest sermon by a former rector dared question the morality of the Bush administration's embrace of pre-emptive war.
Rector J. Edwin Bacon of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena told many congregants during morning services Sunday that a guest sermon by the church's former rector, the Rev. George F. Regas, on Oct. 31, 2004, had prompted a letter from the IRS.

In his sermon, Regas, who from the pulpit opposed both the Vietnam War and 1991's Gulf War, imagined Jesus participating in a political debate with then-candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry. Regas said that "good people of profound faith" could vote for either man, and did not tell parishioners whom to support.

But he criticized the war in Iraq, saying that Jesus would have told Bush, "Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster."

On June 9, the church received a letter from the IRS stating that "a reasonable belief exists that you may not be tax-exempt as a church … " The federal tax code prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns and elections.
The congregants are pretty upset with the accusation:
Some congregants were upset that a sermon citing Jesus Christ's championing of peace and the poor was the occasion for an IRS probe.

"I'm appalled," said 70-year-old Anne Thompson of Altadena, a professional singer who also makes vestments for the church.

"In a government that leans so heavily on religious values, that they would pull a stunt like this, it makes me heartsick."

Joe Mirando, an engineer from Burbank, questioned whether the 3,500-member church would be under scrutiny if it were not known for its activism and its liberal stands on social issues.

"The question is, is it politically motivated?" he said. "That's the underlying feeling of everyone here. I don't have enough information to make a decision, but there's a suspicion."
Politics motivating the actions of an agency under the control of the Bush administration? Why, I'm shocked — SHOCKED!!! — that anyone could suggest such a thing!

Ask former Bush Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill if the administration went after him for his criticism of the President and his decision-making process.

Ask former ambassador Joseph Wilson if the administration went after him for exposing the fact that the President used false information in a State of the Union address as part of the effort to sell the war in Iraq (Better yet, ask Karl Rove!).

Nah! Just must be some honest bureaucrat trying to earn some Brownie points!

My wife and I saw "Good Night and Good Luck" Saturday night. Newsman Edward R. Murrow decided to take on Senator Joseph McCarthy when it became clear in his own work place that "the terror is here in this room." The degree to which the Bush administration is using government to silence critics has begun to take on the tinge of McCarthy's slanders. Only this time it's worse. This is the administration running the country, not a rogue senator from Wisconsin.


Stephen said...

This is the height of hypocrisy. To see all the churches we did with "Vote Pro-Life" and the sketch of a fetus.

And if we lift a finger on this issue to stand up for this Church then we are labeled by the RIGHT as a Godless party.

We have to stand up to this and all kinds of theological thuggery.

Interestingly enough, I have heard from more than a few people who are switching their denomination due to this kind of hijacking of religion...

On ward...

Stephen said...

PS. Just saw that "Good Night and Good Luck" is now playing at The Grand here in Lafayette. I am definately planning on going to see it, anyone want to get a group together to go and see it then go for coffee afterwards to discuss it?