Will IRS monitor content of sermons? Do they now?

From Life News:

IRS Strikes Deal With Atheist Group to Monitor Content of Sermons

The next time your pastor delivers a pro-life sermon or urges the congregation to stand up for pro-life values in the political or public arena, he could be taken to task by the IRS.

Alliance Defending Freedom asked the Internal Revenue Service Tuesday to release all documents related to its recent decision to settle a lawsuit with an atheist group that claims the IRS has adopted new protocols and procedures for the investigation of churches.

ADF submitted the Freedom of Information Act request after learning of the IRS’s agreement with Freedom From Religion Foundation in a press release the group issued on July 17 concerning its lawsuit Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Koskinen, which accused the agency of failing to investigate churches the way the atheist group would like.

“Secrecy breeds mistrust, and the IRS should know this in light of its recent scandals involving the investigation of conservative groups,” said ADF Litigation Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “We are asking the IRS to disclose the new protocols and procedures it apparently adopted for determining whether to investigate churches. What it intends to do to churches must be brought into the light of day.”

The IRS claims it is temporarily withholding investigations of all tax-exempt entities because of congressional scrutiny of its recent scandals, but no one knows when it will decide to restart investigations based on any new or modified rules that it develops.


Read the rest there.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. BenFischer says:

    My pastor is safe, then

  2. Gail F says:

    Neither the Life News story or the atheist group’s press release is at all clear on this.

  3. Legisperitus says:


    And not just in the First Amendment sense.

  4. yatzer says:

    I don’t remember this being a problem when the 1960’s civil rights movement was going on, or with churches lately that have followed the liberal party line. I’m thinking Jeremiah Wright, etc. The use of the IRS as a government political enforcement agency is truly chilling, but that seems to be where we are going. So sad for our country.

  5. SKAY says:

    I think we know what particular churches will be targeted by this IRS under the Obama administration.
    They will use large fines and the threat of loss of private property being taken to pay the debt. The EPA is also being used to take away private property rights as well.

    They are happy to do the atheist”s bidding because it fits in with their agenda of what parts of the Bible they do not want mentioned in any sermon. They will use the term bigoted, women’s rights(abortion) and equal rights(ssm) a lot. It is of course about control and private property rights. It is a little different in how they accomplish the control but it reminds me of how the National Socialist Party in Germany during WWII tried and was somewhat successful in controlling what could and could not be preached by churches. There were those religious Germans who saw through it and fought it–but many who just went along rather than suffer the consequences.
    Interesting that it is coming at a time when lots federal money is being offered to churches to do other things the administration wants for reasons I won’t go into again . Strings are there.

    Thank you for making us aware, Father. The very idea that a priest will be told by this federal government what they can and cannot preach about the Bible is more than outrageous. There really are no words–but the member of the party of death in the oval office does not seem to have any boundaries.
    Over 50% of Catholics voted to put him back in for a second term. Amazing.

  6. Supertradmum says:

    Well, in many countries, persecution has started with fines, then imprisonment, then death. I hope the new seminarians and priests are being taught like those at the Venerable English College in Rome so long ago, when St. Philip Neri would stand outside the door, and as the new priests were leaving to go to England, bless them and say, “Hail, Flowers of the Martyrs.” “Salvete Flores Martyrum”.

    If the young men are not being trained as such, their superiors are doing them a disservice.

  7. incredulous says:

    On the other hand, will they limit the free speech of Cardinal O’Malley as he lends his clerical collar to the efforts of MA governor Deval Patrick, the henceman of Barack Obama as they destroy the rule of law with this illegal invasion of humans who are not fleeing any war zone? Of course, the end result of this open border policy is that conservative Americans will never be able to elect one of their own philosophical fellow travelers again just like in California which has practically zero Republican or Conservative representation.

    This is a travesty of self governance. And, the over reaching federal government is at the source of co-opting leftist segments of the Church and will, with 100% certainty, punish conservative members with gross abuses of government power. Why wouldn’t they? Look at how the Church itself treats its own conservatives as opposed to its own liberals. Father Wylie versus LCWR, comes to mind, for example.

    I pray for truth and discernment of the truth and the discernment to truly glorify God through these very messed up times.

  8. Iacobus M says:

    We have a friend who is a Baptist pastor. He a some of his fellow ministers believe that under the 1st amendment the IRS has no regulatory authority at all over the content of sermons, and so they have been taping their sermons and sending them to the IRS. They have been doing this for several years in hope of getting a court decision that gets the government completely out of the pulpit. So far there has been zero response.

  9. I have maintained for a long time now that the Church should renounce its tax-exempt status and refuse any form of government aid, including tuition tax credits, vouchers, and the like. Our independence is the most valuable asset we have; when we have compromised it has been our downfall. Meanwhile, recording homilies is probably not difficult and not a bad idea in order to protect us from false accusations. If our enemies will stoop as low as to make false accusations of sexual abuse, surely false accusations of violations of tax-exempt status will not be beneath them.

  10. This ship has sailed. The IRS already muzzles pastors by means of the 501(c) exemption and the fear that it will be taken away.

  11. Elizabeth D says:

    I misread this momentarily; I thought I read “Will ISIS monitor content of sermons?”

    I like the idea of the Baptist pastor who sends his sermons to the IRS.

  12. jhayes says:

    IRS Regulations do not prevent churches from taking stands on issues (e.g. The HHS contraception mandate, abortion, same-sex-marriage, religious freedom in general, immigration, poverty, healthcare, etc). What they do limit is what is called “Political Campaign Intervention” In other words, you can’t promote or oppose a particular candidate in an election even though you can point out issues for people to consider in making their own decision on who to vote for.

    The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations
    Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.
    Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.
    On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.
    Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 05-Mar-2014


  13. robtbrown says:

    In the past certain liberal bishops in the church, including Cardinal Bernardin, have used the possibility of losing the tax exempt status as an excuse to avoid hot button topics like abortion.

  14. Sonshine135 says:

    @Elizabeth D
    ISIS…IRS…They all promote terror. :D

  15. anilwang says:

    From what I’ve read, it’s related to the Lyndon Johnson Amendment. The intent of this amendment was to prevent religions from funding political groups (e.g. Democrats, Communist Party, the ISIS party, etc) not to limit sermons or limit the free speech of individuals or prevent religions from establishing voter guides. The IRS has repeatedly affirmed that this was the purpose of this amendment and it was always how it was interpreted. Any attempt by atheist groups to reinterpret this amendment is disingenuous at best.

    That being said, the IRS as of late has begin to think that they can go beyond the law to further the secularist agenda. The HHS violations are only the tip of the iceberg. So this news doesn’t surprise me at all.

    Fortunately, I live in Canada where one is perfectly free to say <trike=EEEEEEEEEEE

    {#`%${%&`+'${`%&NO CARRIER
    ****** End of transmission ******

  16. coeyannie says:

    What about bugging the Confessional. How would you know. Will we have to carry “de-buggers” around with us. It makes me nervous that priest’s take their cell phones in the Confessional with them. I did hear that conversations taking place close to cell phones that are turned off can be tracked.

  17. rcg says:

    What would they do about sermons exhorting people to go out and vote for a tax increase or support sitting officials? Doesn’t that violate the same laws?

  18. eulogos says:

    There are plenty of churches where they will be hard put to it to find any content at all in the sermon…

    It seems as if it would be awfully expensive to do this in any systematic way.

    But I really think we need to get out from under government, and should give up our tax free status.
    We are also under the heel of insurers, and for a diocese to self insure, the state insurance commision has to agree to that, and those are strongly under the influence of the governor; thus bishops are subject to undue influence in that regard as well. Disentangling all these knots will be difficult.
    Susan Peterson

  19. bbmoe says:

    There are many, many things to be worried/disturbed/angry about. This isn’t one of them. The IRS is stretched so thin at this point they can’t find their collective posterior with two hands and a flashlight.

    Come on, folks. There are mountains of public docs from the Catechism of the Catholic Church to the USCCB on down that say that abortion is a grave sin. If pro-life speech were actionable for a tax-exempt review, the Catholic Church would have been kicked long ago. Pro-lifers have the most battle-hardened lawyers, the most avid grass-roots. Let’s fear-monger were there’s actual danger, please.

    That said, I think the Catholic Church should stop taking any money from the government. No grants, no contracts and tell every Catholic that we are sick of being told that because we accept a few thousand dollars a year from Uncle Sam, we can’t display a crucifix in our pregnancy resource center. Sometimes poor people need money. All the time poor people and people in distress need Christ.

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