The jig is up. The news is out. Pastors across America have called the left’s bluff. The empty words “separation of church and state” – a phrase found nowhere in the U.S. Constitution – have lost their sting.
Yes, “separation” still applies, but only insofar as it requires the state to remain separate from the church. That is to say, that government not interfere with the free exercise of either speech or religion.
For decades, hard-left anti-theist groups like the ACLU, People for the American Way (PFAW) and Barry Lynn’s Americans United (AU) have employed a cynical disinformation scheme intended to intimidate clergy into silence on issues of morality, culture and Christian civic involvement – issues that are not political so much as they have been politicized, issues that are inherently “religious.”
AU, for instance, recently sent 60,000 letters to churches across the nation warning pastors, priests and rabbis that “If the IRS determines that your house of worship has engaged in unlawful intervention, it can revoke the institution’s tax-exempt status.”
That’s a lie.
Despite hundreds of thousands of threatening letters sent by these liberal outfits (and as many complaints filed with the IRS) not a single church has ever lost tax-exemption for socio-political activity – zip, zero, nada. Not even for endorsing candidates from the pulpit. The left has cried wolf far too many times. No one will come running. Especially not the IRS.
That’s because churches, unlike other nonprofit organizations, don’t need a letter of tax exemption from the Internal Revenue Service. Churches are constitutionally tax-exempt simply by virtue of existence. It’s automatic. The only way the IRS could revoke a church’s tax-exempt status would be to disband the church, which, obviously, the government has no authority to do. It’s simple. Pastors, if you get a letter from the ACLU, PFAW or AU, I suggest a singular use for it: bird-cage liner.
Keeping all this in mind, something I’ve long expected has finally occurred. A little over a week ago, the IRS ran up the white flag. That bureaucratic bully we all love to hate announced that, for the indefinite future, it is “holding any potential church audits in abeyance,” for violating its arbitrary “no politicking” rule.
This rule stems from the blatantly unconstitutional “Johnson Amendment,” which, in 1954, was introduced by then-Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson. At the time, Johnson was facing opposition from Christians and anti-Communists. He pushed the rule through in an effort to muzzle them.
Matt Barber is founder and editor-in chief of BarbWire.com. He is an author, columnist, cultural analyst and an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. Having retired as an undefeated heavyweight professional boxer, Matt has taken his fight from the ring to the culture war. (Follow Matt on Twitter: @jmattbarber).