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Old 09-18-2006, 10:15 PM   #1
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IRS after Episcopal Church for Iraq War Sermon?

All Saints, IRS on collision course
Church officials hint they may defy summons
By Fred Ortega Staff Writer



PASADENA - The congregation of All Saints Episcopal Church cheered defiantly Sunday when it was suggested that the church might not comply with an Internal Revenue Service summons, foreshadowing what could turn into a legal battle between All Saints and the federal government.

Church officials received the summons Friday. It requests a number of church documents relating to a guest sermon by former rector George Regas, given two days before the November 2004 presidential election, in which Regas was critical of President George W. Bush's policies on the Iraq war, abortion and poverty. But Regas stopped short of endorsing either presidential candidate in his sermon.

The IRS is asking for all documents detailing church policy on political campaigning, guest sermons and responses to the IRS summons itself to be turned over by Sept. 29, and that the current rector, the Rev. Ed Bacon, testify before an IRS agent on Oct. 11. At stake is the church's tax-exempt status as a religious organization.

In his sermon Sunday, Bacon characterized the summons as an attack on the church's constitutional rights of freedom of religion and expression.

"This church cannot be silent or indifferent in the face of dehumanizing or destructive public policies," said Bacon, adding that church leaders have been conferring with their lawyers and will decide whether to comply with the summons this week.

He suggested that ignoring the IRS request would give the church the chance to make its case in a court of law, a prospect which drew applause and a standing ovation from the congregation, which filled nearly every pew in the church.

"I think I get your drift," Bacon told churchgoers after the applause died down.

He suggested that if the IRS was successful in its efforts against All Saints, it would inhibit religious groups across the country from commenting on issues as varied as the "unjust war in Iraq, violations


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of the Geneva Convention, bigotry based on sexual orientation, genocide in Darfur" and other politically charged topics.

Church members participating in a homecoming celebration after the sermon said they were behind Bacon and other church leaders.

"I totally support what the church is doing," said Robin Perry of Glendale, who has been a member of All Saints since 1990. She compared the IRS inquiry to the persecution of dissident churches under autocratic regimes.

"In a totalitarian government, anyone who speaks against the government is targeted," Perry said. "This church is known for being outspoken about the truth, and that is exactly what is happening here."

Fifteen-year church member Marita Pinkel of Arcadia said she was proud of Bacon and his fellow clergy for standing up to the government.

"I feel this is a moment in history, a chance for us to make a huge difference," she said. "I feel the American people need a catalyst, and it likely will come from many sources, but we will be an important one by standing up for what we truly stand for."

But the church's senior warden said there was still a chance All Saints would comply with the IRS request.

"I've been through the documents and I think it fully supports our position that we have not been in violation of the IRS regulations," Robert Long said.

Wire reports contributed to this story.
http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/news/ci_4355216
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Old 09-18-2006, 10:21 PM   #2
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The Bush Administration has quite the gall to do this, considering how many churches give out voter guides endorsing all Republican candidates.

If Bush wants to enforce this, he'd better do it equally or not at all.

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Old 09-18-2006, 11:17 PM   #3
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If Bush wants to enforce this, he'd better do it equally or not at all.

That's pretty much where I stand on this situation.
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Old 09-19-2006, 06:22 AM   #4
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I am pretty much stunned.....
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Old 09-19-2006, 11:51 AM   #5
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At the lack of response.
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Old 09-19-2006, 12:47 PM   #6
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Actually - as a church leader, I am specifically instructed not to endorse any politicians or politial parties for this very reason.

In am in Northern California - and left leaning "spies" came into conservative Chistian churches listening for official endorsements during the election of 2004. They would then report infractions to the IRS.

About the most we can say is "vote your conscience" or "as the Spirit leads you."
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Old 09-19-2006, 01:38 PM   #7
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This is scary. A church denounces public policy and gets an IRS summons.
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Old 09-19-2006, 04:01 PM   #8
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I'm afraid we've all been too busy hyperventilating over a certain other cleric's politicized sermon, Dread.

Well how come Katherine Harris was able to use churches as campaign stops, then?
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Old 09-19-2006, 06:38 PM   #9
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I'm afraid we've all been too busy hyperventilating over a certain other cleric's politicized sermon, Dread.

Well how come Katherine Harris was able to use churches as campaign stops, then?
I did not know that she did this. As far as I understand the guidlines set forth by the Southern Baptist Convention, churches are not allowed to endorse candidates and keep their tax exempt status.
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Old 09-19-2006, 06:51 PM   #10
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i first have to say that i agree with the sentiments expressed by the reverend. however, from a staunchly secular standpoint, ideally, it has to be said that religious authority should refrain from commenting on 'worldly' affairs, and the political authority should do the same for religious affairs.

having said that, seeing how the president of the US talks to god and all, and hard-core conservative christian churches spreading the word of 'GOP'... it is refreshing to hear an honest voice. i dont think the US is the ideal secular state, so this is nothing surprising.
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Old 09-19-2006, 06:59 PM   #11
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Ah, the GOP has found a reason not to eliminate the IRS entirely.
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Old 09-19-2006, 07:06 PM   #12
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I am willing to bet there are abuses on both sides of the aisle in the church realm. However, I find this laughable....

The American Revolution began in some ways, from the pulpit. Good grief, they were all in churhc the night of the Tea Party.
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Old 09-19-2006, 07:10 PM   #13
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Sorry, couldn't resist. I'm sure the Democrats do it too. I'm an equal opportunity cynic.
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Old 09-19-2006, 08:18 PM   #14
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RELIGIOUS RIGHT NEEDS TO DEFEND ALL SAINTS EPISCOPAL





By Pastor Chuck Baldwin

September 19, 2006

NewsWithViews.com

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that "the Internal Revenue Service ordered a liberal Pasadena parish to turn over all the documents and e-mails it produced during the 2004 election year with references to political candidates.

"All Saints Episcopal Church and its rector, the Rev. Ed Bacon, have until Sept. 29 to present the sermons, newsletters and electronic communications.

"The IRS investigation was triggered by an antiwar sermon delivered by its former rector, the Rev. George F. Regas, at the church two days before the 2004 presidential election. The summons even requests utility bills to establish costs associated with hosting Regas' speech. Bacon was ordered to testify before IRS officials Oct. 11."

That Rev. Regas and All Saints Episcopal represent a liberal point of view must not cloud the fact that what is at stake here is religious liberty. From the very beginning of our constitutional republic, America's pastors and ministers have courageously engaged the culture. We must not allow the IRS, or any other government agency, to now trample this heritage.

Can one imagine the potential outcome for religious freedom should the IRS be allowed to stifle religious dissent? Think of the voter registration drives, the get-out-the-vote campaigns, and public forums that take place in America's churches.

Beyond that, there is not a local, state, or federal election that takes place that ministers of every stripe and color do not boldly express their convictions and provide spiritual consideration on salient issues that will be directly affected by those elections. Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, liberal, conservative, moderate, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and sectarian: they all freely voice their concerns. I say, more power to them!

Yet, there is an even bigger issue here. Not only do ministers have a fundamental right under our Constitution to speak freely regarding their agreements or disagreements with "the powers that be," they also have a moral and Biblical mandate to do so.

I'm sure the IRS would accuse John the Baptist of "getting into politics" when he denounced Herod's adultery. However, not only did John keep preaching, but the Lord Jesus commended John, saying there was none greater than he ever born.

The truth is, it is virtually impossible for a minister to faithfully preach the Scriptures without dealing with current events, including those that bleed over into politics. For example, the Bible condemned abortion a long time before it became a football in American politics. Therefore, to be faithful to Scripture, preachers must deal with the abortion issue.

What about homosexuality, adultery, greed, falsehood, thievery, etc.? When those issues become political or impact political candidates and office holders, must preachers remove themselves from the debate? Perish the thought.

Preachers form America's collective conscience and provide a collective moral authority for those in and out of politics. To demand that preachers be silent on political issues would be to throw America into a moral and spiritual vacuum from which there would be no return.

However, under President George W. Bush, the IRS has become extremely aggressive in using acts of intimidation against churches and other organizations. During the past two years alone, using its new enforcement program, the Political Activity Compliance Initiative, the IRS has investigated more than 200 organizations nationwide, including 40 churches.

The IRS attack against All Saints Episcopal has occurred even though Rev. Regas' sermon "did not endorse or oppose any of the candidates, [but] addressed the moral and religious implications of various social issues facing the nation at the time." Good grief! There is hardly a pastor in the country that has not done the same thing. Will all of us pastors and our churches be the next targets of the IRS?

I doubt that I have much in common with the Rev. Bob Edgar, an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and general secretary of the National Council of Churches USA, but I whole-heartedly agree with him when he said, "I'm outraged. Preachers ought to have the liberty to speak truth to power." Amen!



If this were the Clinton administration's IRS threatening a conservative evangelical church, the Religious Right would be screaming to the heavens. Yet, the Religious Right needs to look beyond the liberalism of the Rev. Regas and All Saints Episcopal and come quickly and vehemently to their defense, realizing that religious liberty either applies to us all or it applies to none of us at all. As someone once said so well, "I may not agree with what you say, but I'll fight to the death for your right to say it."



The American political system is not threatened by Rev. Regas, but religious liberty is most assuredly being threatened by the Internal Revenue Service. The Religious Right, especially, needs to realize that fact.

© 2006 Chuck Baldwin - All Rights Reserved




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Chuck Baldwin is Founder-Pastor of Crossroads Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida. In 1985 the church was recognized by President Ronald Reagan for its unusual growth and influence.
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Old 09-19-2006, 08:20 PM   #15
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And the Bush Approval thread has how many posts in two hours?

I cannot believe this is something we cannot, right, left, indifferent, rally around.
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