Led by the stalwart legions of Religious Right™ lawyers at the Alliance Defense Fund (an outfit you need to learn more about, if you haven’t already), a bunch of pastors are going to fight off the IRS rule against churches endorsing political candidates (as reported by the Washington Post):

Ban on Political Endorsements by Pastors Targeted

Declaring that clergy have a constitutional right to endorse political candidates from their pulpits, the socially conservative Alliance Defense Fund is recruiting several dozen pastors to do just that on Sept. 28, in defiance of Internal Revenue Service rules.

The effort by the Arizona-based legal consortium is designed to trigger an IRS investigation that ADF lawyers would then challenge in federal court. The ultimate goal is to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a 54-year-old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of worship.

“For so long, there has been this cloud of intimidation over the church,” ADF attorney Erik Stanley said. “It is the job of the pastors of America to debate the proper role of church in society. It’s not for the government to mandate the role of church in society.”

I’m disappointed in the headline. It conveys the idea that pastors are “banned” from saying anything. This is decidedly not the case. Like all Americans they have First Amendment rights to say whatever they want. No one is censoring them or “banning” them from endorsing candidates. Rather, their problem is that their churches have tax-exempt status, which binds them to the same restriction that all other tax-exempt entities must live up to, which is not to engage in politicking. So these ferocious pastors and their churches are, in fact, quite free to endorse candidates — they just have to forfeit their tax-exempt status in order to do so.

The legions of the ADF are, therefore, positing a “straw man,” one that the Post unwittingly (I think) is supporting in its choice of headline. The fact is that pastors are in no way “banned” from speaking. That they would claim so, makes them dishonest. They merely can’t campaign for political candidates and keep their churches’ tax exemption. That they would be so ardent about this shows what their true motivations are … money and power!

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