Pastors Thrilled to Win IRS Ruling!

Plano, TX (May 12, 2009) – Free Market Foundation’s legal arm announced today that the Internal Revenue Service found that pastors who gathered in 2006 for a series of public policy conferences and included Gov. Rick Perry as a speaker, had every right to do so and that the organizers of the events did not violate any tax laws that govern non-profit organizations.

“This liberal attempt to intimidate pastors has backfired,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of Free Market Foundation, which represented event organizers.  “There is now a clear IRS statement outlining these pastors’ events and approving them as valid under the law.”

In January 2008, the IRS began its investigating into the Niemoller Foundation who held six conferences in 2006 calling pastors to stand up for moral issues and to encourage their congregants to get involved in the political process.  The investigation came as a result of a complaint filed by the Texas Freedom Network (TFN), a left-leaning Austin based political organization, who accused the non-profit group of breaking the law by trying to influence political campaigns.  Specifically, TFN accused the religious organization of “encouraging pastors at the gatherings to mount voter registration drives and turn congregants out at the polls.” TFN also accused the group of “dragging churches into Gov. Rick Perry’s reelection campaign” after learning that he was a guest speaker at the events.   The IRS ruled the pastors’ conferences were legal.

“We educate churches on moral issues facing our society and encourage them to participate in the democratic process,” said Laurence White, director of the Niemoller Foundation and a Lutheran pastor. “The IRS has unequivocally affirmed the right of pastors nationwide to come together as spokesmen for the Word of God, to interact with political leaders, historians and scholars in discussing the moral issues under debate within our culture and to assert their Biblical responsibility to address such issues from their pulpits.”

A number of liberal groups have been in a national campaign filing IRS complaints against religious leaders and pastors.  “Be careful what you hear from these liberal organizations,” Shackelford said.  “They sound very confident and file many complaints yet none are found valid even by the IRS.”

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11 Responses to Pastors Thrilled to Win IRS Ruling!

  1. Deborah Muse says:

    Does this mean that a Pastor can endorse one candidate over another because that candidates views are in line with the teachings of the Bible or that church? Or does it just mean they can speak out on moral issues?

  2. Larry says:

    Does this ruling allow pastors to endorse candidates? Or is it permission to simply encourage voting and participation?

    If it’s only the latter, it seems like a hollow victory. American clergy should be free to voice their full opinions on politics and politicians without fear of recriminiation.

    Until that is true, America is missing out on hearing from important voices, and isn’t really free.

  3. Victory? No, for the following reasons:

    This article does not seem to indicate that the IRS is saying that pastors of state churches can name names and criticize or support political candidates by name or speak out on certain moral issues from their pulpits. All it says is that pastors can encourage their congregations to get involved in politics and to vote their values. At any rate, the article concedes that the IRS decides what a 501c3 incorporated religious organization can and cannot say (subject to court challenge, of course). Victory?

    Even should the IRS ever allow religious organizations (Churches? Of course, only God knows when He takes away a candlestick.), I wonder how our Lord feels about His bride–His wife over whom he desires to be the Head in all things–taking orders from another instead of Him only, even if that illicit lover should, by some small chance, agree with Him? Victory?

    Is this another situation where Christians totally miss the point and slant defeats to make them look like victories? All this while America’s churches grow more impotent, and continue toward apostasy; that is, if they are not already there.

    For His Glory,
    Jerald Finney
    Attorney at law
    churchandstatelaw.com
    separationofchurchandstate.podomatic.com

    • freemarketfoundationmedia says:

      Sometimes only our side tries to turn a victory into a defeat. Of course it was a win. Pastor events around the country were under attack, some events with over a 1,000 pastors and spouses meeting to commit to one another to stand for truth and to do for all truth, whether in the political system or not. Liberals attacked and we won. Completely. More than that, we forced them to put in writing so all pastors could know they cannot be touched for any of the myriad of activities these pastors were engaging in. That is a victory- freedom was advanced.

      99% of what most pastors would want to do regarding the political process (speak to truth and issues, register their congregation to vote, tell their congregation to only vote for candidates who stand for those Biblical values, hand out voter’s guides, and even inviting the candidates top speak and be questioned in their church on the issues) they are free to engage in, even the IRS admits. The fact that we believed and knew they had that freedom already is not the point. THEY know they have it. There is no excuse for pastor not to lead and do exactly what the Lord has called them to do in standing for the truth, including the political process.

      Yes, there is one battle left for another day that was not a part of this case (whether a pastor can endorse a candidate in the pulpit; we would argue every pastor has that Constitutional right). But that is no reason to disregard the wide victory on all other issues the Lord provided here. This solidifies great freedom for pastors nationwide. That is a very good thing.

      • I say this in love, but it must be said. I appreciate the motives of Free Market Foundation and the good things they do, but I must say that they are wrong according to principles in the Word of God.

        This was not a victory at all. Victory will come only when state pastors (pastors of churches which are legal entities such as incorporated 501(c)(3) tax exempt religious organizations) understand and apply biblical principles concerning church, state, and separation of church and state.

        Further, you missed one of my points–the article concedes that these pastors and churches are under the IRS. They do not have to be so in America. We still have the First Amendment, and even if we did not have that Amendment, no church should submit herself to civil government in spiritual matters. Of course, civil government has a God-given jurisdiction, but that jurisdiction does not cover spiritual matters. The spiritual state, morality, etc. of our leaders is a spiritual matters. See Ep. 6.10-18.

        It is impossible to fully explain everything regarding the relevant issues here, but I have done so in my books which are available on my website, churchandstatelaw.com.

        Christians must learn to walk in the spirit and grow in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. Otherwise, the downhill slide will only accelerate.

        For His Glory,
        Jerald Finney

        • freemarketfoundationmedia says:

          We love you, but your statement about Free Market and the principles of the Word of God is simply inaccurate. It is not our job to theologically lead a church, nor is it our desire to do so. We do seek, however, to expand religious freedom which this case certainly did. We may all agree that the First Amendment protects pastors to do and say what they feel called to do by the Lord. We probably also agree that pastors should never censor themselves or fail to express what they are called to say. While these are our beliefs, the courts have yet to decide these yet. Every victory in the right direction is a victory, especially one that says the secular authorities agree with us on at least 98% of what any pastor would want to do.

          Pretending it does not matter whether what pastors do is declared unlawful (since they should follow the Bible anyway) misses the mark. It is good news when pastors get a victory, as this one, that makes clear that almost everything they would feel called to do by the Lord is perfectly legal. Maybe the other 2% (such as endorsing a candidate from the pulpit) will come up in another case. To say this case was not a victory is, however, wrong. It is not a matter of “good motives” but an objectively good result for pastors everywhere.

  4. Ken Cluck says:

    Pastors will be allowed to speak on the issues that are relevant to the election even when their views are in line with one candidate and out of line with the other. They will still not be able to specifically endorse a candidate,but they can can discuss the issues relating to the decision.

    This is a victory, but one that should never have been a battle. Free speech must apply to all and free speech is only free if speech that offends some is protected.

  5. Mike says:

    Where is the link to the ruling? This sounds great, but facts need to be posted to back up the story. According to the Washington Times…

    “The IRS decision, conveyed only to the Niemoller Foundation, also applied to Niemoller-sponsored gatherings in Texas and Florida to support state constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.

    Liberal groups cautioned against interpreting the decision as a political carte blanche for churches and clergy on the right.”

    Touting this as a victory for all pastors might be too soon…Liberals are going to fight this so we still need to be vigilant.

    Link to Washington Times Article is here…
    http://washingtontimes.com/news/2009/may/13/moral-values-groups-hail-tax-ruling/

  6. freemarketfoundationmedia says:

    Mike, here’s a link to the ruling: http://www.libertylegal.org/Img/Niemoller%20Foundation%20IRS.pdf.

  7. Larry says:

    Following up my comment-I completely agree this is a step in the right direction. I did not mean to take anything away from an important win. However it’s telling that a step like this is so significant. It tells you how far we’ve left the Founders’ intentions, and how far we have left to go. I congratulate everyone involved in making this happen, and hope FMF is committed to continuing to work this issue with the goal of unfettered speach by leaders of any type of non-profit. Of course given the current administration, and the unwillingness of most pastors to take a stand, I’m not holding my breath. Great job FMF!

  8. Kevin Chavez says:

    Keep fighting the good fight! We are living in precarious times and need to stick together. I heard Kelly speak in Austin in March at the Hispanic Values Legislative Day. As a Hispanic/Latino Christian attorney, it is good to see that your organization took the time to speak to us. Much like the apostle Paul, I have to navigate between two languages and two cultures – but at the end of the day, my goal is to make sure we remember to further God’s kingdom! Blessings!

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