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Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

By Lynda Waddington | 11.17.11

Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.

ACS lockout continues; plan emerges to repeal sugar protections

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By Virginia Chamlee | 11.15.11

A recently introduced bill could have far-reaching impact on the U.S. sugar industry, including American Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative that locked out 1,300 Midwest workers on Aug. 1.

Cain campaign: Farmers know more about regulations than EPA

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By Andrew Duffelmeyer | 11.15.11

The chairman for Herman Cain’s Iowa effort says the campaign “relied more on the word of farmers than Washington regulators” in deciding to run an ad containing claims the Environmental Protection Agency says are false.

Mathis wins, Democrats maintain Senate control

Liz Mathis
By Lynda Waddington | 11.08.11

The Iowa Senate will remain under the control of a slim 26-25 Democratic majority when it reconvenes in January 2012.

Press Release

PR: Nation should work to address veterans’ challenges

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

BRUCE BRALEY RELEASE — As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.

PR: Honoring veterans, help in hiring

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

CHUCK GRASSLEY RELEASE — A difficult job market is challenging the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have protected America’s interests by serving in the Armed Forces.

PR: In honor of America’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

TOM LATHAM RELEASE — No one has done more to secure the freedom enjoyed by every single American than our veterans and those currently serving in the armed services.

PR: Honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

DAVE LOEBSACK RELEASE — Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service of generations of veterans and to honor the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we may live in peace and freedom here at home.

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Clergy warned about ‘Pulpit Freedom Sunday’

National group says Sunday event is attempt to politicize churches
By Lynda Waddington | 09.30.11 | 8:53 am

A national group that advocates for the separation of church and state is urging members of the evangelical clergy to reject the Alliance Defense Fund’s “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” on Oct. 2.

“This is an appalling attempt by the Religious Right to turn houses of worship into house of partisan politics,” said Rev. Berry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. “Americans attend church for spiritual guidance, not to get a list of candidates to vote for on election day.”

The Alliance Defense Fund, a religiously motivated legal group which considers itself as a counter to the American Civil Liberties Union, is encouraging pastors throughout the nation to “freely speak to their congregations on political matters from a biblical perspective.” This year’s event is an extension and continuation of the group’s 2008 “Pulpit Initiative,” which challenged the Internal Revenue Service restrictions on pastors speaking about political candidates under threat of IRS investigation.

Lynn contends that the ADF is encouraging pastors to break the law by endorsing or opposing certain political candidates as a part of religious ceremony.

“I know the Religious Right would like to forge fundamentalist churches into a partisan political machine,” Lynn said, “but the law doesn’t allow it, and the American people don’t want it.”

The group points to a recent study finding that 73 percent of Americans agree religious leaders should not intervene in elections, and they have pledged to report offending religious institutions to the IRS, the government agency that is charged with investigating and enforcing tax law provisions.

“Church electioneering is illegal, and the people don’t support it,” Lynn added. “It’s time for the Religious Right to stop trying to drag churches into backroom politics.”

In 2006, the IRS issued a report stating that it examined 132 non-profits during the 2004 election cycle. The tax agency noted that “fewer than half” of the entities examined were churches and concluded that in many of the case, significant violations of the law had occurred. Written warnings were issued in 55 cases.

In 2008, the IRS took the step of sending letters to officials in the national political parties, reminding them that houses of worship and other tax-exempt entities cannot endorse candidates.

The ADF doesn’t seem to be arguing that such political practices from the pulpit is legal, but that it should be legal. The group views the restrictions placed on church as a part of their tax-exempt status as an undue shackle, which they believe violates the constitutional right of free speech. The group notes that in the almost 60 years since Congress added the provision to the tax code “there has been no reported situation where a church has lost its tax-exempt status or has been directly punished for sermons delivered from the pulpit evaluating candidates for office in light of scripture.”

Appearing recently on Glenn Beck TV, Pastor Jim Garlow of Skyline Wesleyan Church, who also serves as chairman of Renewing American Leadership, argued that “any pastor can say whatever he or she wants from the pulpit.”

During the original Pastor Initiative, according to Garlow, 33 pastors knowingly and purposefully violated federal law by issuing and recording political speech from their pulpits, and afterward provided those recordings to the IRS, which did not prosecute. The following year, a total of 84 pastors did the same — also without penalty. And the year after that 100 pastors did the same without penalty.

“This year,” Garlow said, “we expect close to 500 pastors to intentionally in their sermons defy the Johnson Amendment — they can speak whatever they want — and mail it to the IRS and the Alliance Defense Fund will defend [their right to do so].”

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Comments

  • Anonymous

    It is legal for a church to politick.  It’s just illegal for the church to politick and still falsely claim an exemption from taxes.

    If these people actually had the courage of their pretended convictions, they’d surrender their tax exemptions and then speak their minds; but these dishonest weasels want the privileges of taxpayers without the duties of taxpayers, and they want the privileges of being ‘sacrosanct’ while really being just another political operator.

    • Anonymous

      Perhaps if the law was enforced on Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton and Jeremiah Wright for starters, then the ADF might merit some credibility..  They each have their ‘color’ for protection.  Plus, each can claim tax exempt status by adding ‘Reverend’ or ‘Doctor’ as their title.   The IRS will never touch any of these Africans.
      The ADF would be better to use these Africans as justification why every church should allow politics.  It might actually force the IRS and other government agencies to begin ‘peeling the onion’ on those three ‘rascals’.

      • Anonymous

        I’m going to leave aside your corrosive emotional issues about race. That’s for you and your therapist to work through.

        However, it’s clear that you don’t have the foggiest FACTUAL idea what you’re talking about with regard to the religious tax exemption, which severely curtails the value of your opinions about it.

        Clergy do NOT have, as individuals, tax-exempt status. Your local minister and the Archbishop of New York pay their personal taxes on their personal income paid to them by their church exactly the same as a steelworker or a Starbucks barrista. So, none of the individuals you named “can claim tax exempt status by adding ‘Reverend’ or ‘Doctor’ as their title.”

        Only religious ORGANIZATIONS can claim tax-exemption under 501(c)(3). This is the same tax exemption that also applies to schools and arts organizations.

        In order to claim a 501(c)(3) tax exemption, the organization (such as a church) must not use its tax-exempt resources to engage in certain specific categories of political activity. While a church MAY speak on social issues, even if that has indirect political implications, the church MAY NOT specifically encourage its members or others to VOTE for or against 1) a political candidate for office or 2) a initiative actually on the ballot for an upcoming election.

        A minister, as an individual, CAN directly encourage people to vote for a
        candidate or ballot issue, so long as he is clearly NOT SPEAKING ON BEHALF
        OF HIS/HER CHURCH AS ITS MINISTER. That’s why Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev.
        Jerry Falwell can be actively political so long as they keep their own
        political activities distinct from their role as pastor of a 501(c)(3)
        church. However, if they utilize church resources in such a way as to
        indicate that their speech IS being made on behalf of the church, then the
        CHURCH (not the pastor) is in violation of its 501(c)(3) status and can lose
        its tax exemption.

        That’s it. That’s the perfectly reasonable condition under which churches,
        schools, and arts organizations get tax breaks that you and I can only dream
        of.

        But the pastors involved in this story think that’s unfair. They think
        their church should get all the privileges of tax exemption and yet still be
        able to use tax-exempt church resources to actively politick for political
        candidates. They want to be able to stand in their tax-exempt pulpit and
        declare “God wants you to vote for Joe Blow for city council. In fact,
        we’re passing the collection plate right now to gather campaign funds for
        Joe Blow. Any of you who vote for Fred Otherguy will go to Hell.”

        It’s a violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, and it’s
        wrong on principle. As I said, if churches want to become campaign
        committees, then let them pay taxes on their property and income like
        everyone else.

  • Larry Linn

    When I was in Plano Texas a few weeks
    ago, I drove by several churches on Sunday morning along my route to visit a
    teacher whom was laid off because of budget cuts. At several of the large
    churches, uniformed police officers were directing traffic in and out of the
    church parking lots. It is ironic that there are no funds for teachers, but
    there is money to pay for trained and experienced police officers to direct
    parking lot traffic. The churches should be free to be political, but be taxed
    like everyone else.

  • http://twitter.com/ARPChurch_com ARPChurch_com

    My sermon on Pulpit Freedom Sunday
    Blessings! — http://www.firstprestucker.org/sermon-archive/sermon-archive-2/2011-10-02/

    • Anonymous

      First, this sermon does NOT fall outside the generous boundaries permitted by your church’s 501(c)(3) status.  You do not advocate votes for specified candidates or ballot initiatives.  You are not committing a brave act of “civil disobedience” protest with this sermon, if that was your intention, because you have not violated the 501(c)(3) rules.

      However, several of your statements in the sermon are incorrect.

      “Why are pastors the only people who have allowed the IRS to censor their First Amendment rights? The IRS threatens to rescind our tax exemption if they don’t like the content of our sermons.”

      Wrong.  The IRS is NOT censoring your First Amendment rights.  You and other pastors are free to say anything anyone else is legally permitted to say.  A 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization is simply not permitted to let you utilize their corporate assets when you engage in that speech—unless they are willing to surrender their tax exemption.

      “Churches are tax-exempt because they are churches, not because the government decided to bless them with a ‘subsidy.’ The church is not getting a pass on taxes; it is simply outside the government’s appropriate tax base.”

      Wrong.  Churches ARE tax-exempt only because the government decided to bless them with a subsidy, as schools and arts organizations are also favored with a 501(c)(3) tax exemption.  Financially speaking, churches are incorporated entities just like any other, and would be taxable like any other corporation except that they, along with schools and arts organizations, have been granted special favorable treatment.  The only condition of that significant favoritism is the narrow and unburdensome condition that they not use their resources to endorse specific candidates or specific ballot initiatives.

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