For years now, Donald Trump has been lying and claiming he rescinded the Johnson Amendment, the rule that forbids churches from endorsing candidates while maintaining their non-profit status. He hasn’t rescinded it. The rule is still in effect.
That said, the rule doesn’t matter if the IRS won’t enforce it. Which they haven’t been. Over the past decade, only one church has lost its non-profit status for violating the rule despite plenty of violations. All the more reason the IRS needs more funding and more agents.
You would still hope that when a case is open and shut, the skeleton crew at the IRS would take action. That’s what the Freedom From Religion Foundation has now exposed… twice.
According to the group, Rick Kloos, the founder of a church called God’s Storehouse and a candidate for Kansas State Senate, is treating the two interchangeably. Consider his campaign signs that come with a straight-up advertisement for his church.
Then there’s another church that’s hosting him for an event this Sunday. In a now-deleted post on his campaign’s Facebook page, Kloos promoted his appearance at “A Place Called There” church.
But when a commenter asked the church if Kloos’ opponent would get the same opportunity, the church shut down the idea quickly, saying Trump’s executive order meant they could endorse any candidate they wanted.
In FFRF’s lawsuit over this order, the Justice Department admitted that “the order does not exempt religious organizations from the restrictions on political campaign activity applicable to all tax-exempt organizations,” FFRF reminds the IRS.
“IRS regulations specify that 501(c)(3) organizations, which include churches and other religious organizations, are prohibited from ‘[participating in or intervening in] … any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office,’” FFRF Staff Attorney Madeline Ziegler writes to IRS official Mary Epps. “A candidate using his role as a representative as a nonprofit to advance his campaign is a violation of these regulations, as is a church hosting a candidate’s campaign event and making it clear it supports that candidate.”
The IRS must correct these violations of electioneering restrictions, as well as the continued misapprehension of churches that the “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty” executive order exempts them from the prohibition on nonprofit political campaign activity, FFRF contends.
I wish the IRS would take this seriously, but there’s no indication they will. Still, if our government was more effective, they would punish churches that violate the rules, no matter how hard Trump tries to trick them into thinking they’re not.
(Featured screenshot via Facebook)