The American tax authority, the IRS (Internal Revenue Service), will monitor churches for electioneering in a settlement reached on 18 July with an atheist group, the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF).
In 2012 the FFRF filed a lawsuit alleging that "the IRS routinely ignored complaints by the FFRF and others about churches promoting political candidates, issues, or proposed legislation. As part of their tax-exempt status, churches and other religious groups are prohibited from engaging in partisan political activity."
Monitoring what is said in houses of worship is a clear violation of the First Amendment, since no law can be written by Congress to this effect. The federal Constitution doesn't allow it.
As The American Vision points out,
Monitoring churches is something the Nazis did. When German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) used his pulpit to expose Adolf Hitler’s radical politics, “He knew every word spoken was reported by Nazi spies and secret agents.” [From Basil Miller, Martin Niemoeller: Hero of the Concentration Camp]To have this law declared unconstitutional - and to once and for all remove the ability of the IRS to censor what a pastor says from the pulpit - is the goal of the Pulpit Initiative, created by Alliance Defending Freedom in 2008, focusing on freedom of religion issues in response to more than 50 years of threats and intimidation by militant groups.
The First Amendment does not prohibit churches from speaking out on any issue, including political issues. The amendment is so clear that the people at the Freedom from Religion Foundation almost never cite it:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances...Notice that the prohibition is directed at Congress, our nation’s national law-making body. It can’t establish a religion and it can’t prohibit the free exercise of religion. Period.
To prohibit a church from addressing politics for any reason is a violation of the First Amendment. Notice that the First Amendment gives everybody, churches included, the right to speak about religion, write about religion, congregate about religion, and “petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
The goal of an organization like the Freedom from Religion Foundation is to intimidate pastors and churches to remain silent. FRF [sic] knows that if conservative pastors began to address issues from a biblical perspective, it would mean the near end of liberal domination in America.
Former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson warned churches not to speak out on political issues. He claimed that churches that violate IRS regulations could lose their tax-exempt status and be forced to pay a ten percent excise tax on all donations. I would like to see the IRS try to defend the position in court based on the First Amendment. Constitutionally, it can’t be done. Of course this doesn’t mean that it won’t be done since the Constitution is a legal wax nose...
This so-called ban is a direct violation of the First Amendment. The First Amendment is clear that “Congress shall make no law. . . .” In 1954, Congress made a law prohibiting churches from speaking out on political issues and endorsing candidates. The logic is simple. Since Congress passed such a law, then Congress violated the Constitution. This makes the law null and void.
On Freedom Pulpit Sundays, the last of which was held in June 2013 with the participation of over 1,100 churches, "pastors are encouraged to advise their congregations on political matters, such as marriage and abortion rights, and even endorse or oppose candidates." The next Pulpit Freedom Sunday will be on 5 October 2014.
It's a great act of resistance. Churches shouldn't be bullied.
This is not the first time that the IRS, which is supposed to be politically impartial, has targeted political rivals of the present administration: in the past these have been pro-life, pro-family and Tea-Party groups. A scandal relating to this bias broke in 2013, leading to the current congressional investigation of the IRS for improperly monitoring conservative groups, which has resulted in a moratorium on all IRS investigations. So, in practice, the IRS will not enforce the agreement with the FFRF on monitoring churches because of this moratorium, at least not until it's lifted.
According to Christian Century,
The Freedom from Religion Foundation is widely seen as the most litigious of the dozen or so national atheist advocacy groups. It claims to have brought 40 First Amendment lawsuits since 1977 and is currently involved in legal challenges to a Ten Commandments monument, graduation prayers and a Catholic shrine on public land.Why shouldn't it? It seems to work, even to the point of going against the American Constitution to satisfy its agenda and still winning.
The American Vision concludes its denunciation thus:
One last thing. The purpose of Christian involvement in the political field is not to use the power of the State to impose a Taliban-style religious-political system on the nation but to decrease the power of the State at every level.The separation between Church and state has largely the purpose of protecting the Church from the power of the state. It's ridiculous to think that it means that only Christians, clergy or laymen, of all the different groups that make up a society, should not be entitled to hold political views as Christians or to express them publicly.
Even more absurd is to believe that Church ministers can earn the right to speak of political issues to their flocks only by paying tax money to governments that will squander it and will make themselves greater and more powerful with it, of which type of government conduct the Obama administration provides many excellent examples.