The Christian right loves the 1st Amendment's religious freedom protections, especially when it means restricting women's access to contraception. But they don't have the same degree of reverence for the First Amendment's "separation clause" which prohibits churches from endorsing political candidates lest they loose their tax exempt status. And now that the Freedom From Religion Foundation has, as a result of a 2012 lawsuit, reached an agreement whereby the IRS will more closely monitor churches' involvement in elections, the religious right is mighty pissed and is taking to Fox News to whine about it. This morning, on Fox & Friends, an anti-LGBT pastor lamented this sorry turn of events brought on by evil atheists in tandem with the evil IRS!
Elisabeth Hasselbeck began with an ominous warning for pastors about how "the IRS could be coming to a church near you and you can thank the atheists for that." She described how these evil Jesus haters "struck a deal" with the IRS, "giving it the power to keep a closer eye on non-profit religious groups." She introduced her guest, Jack Hibbs, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel in Chino HillsCalifornia, who says that the "worst part" of the agreement is that "churches like his are being left in the dark."
Hasselbeck framed the propaganda message: "The atheists are forcing the IRS to go in and take a look at sermons and see if there's any political fire in there." Hasselbeck, as usual, is lying because the suit went beyond just sermons. It cited how a Catholic bishop ordered parishes to publish, in their parish bulletins, a warning that if they voted for a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage candidate they were going to hell as well as other "electioneering" actions meant to sway voters in their congregations. It also included the promotion of Mitt Romney's presidential candidacy by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The chyron underscored the propaganda and the persecuted Christian meme: "Faith under fire, deal encourages IRS to investigate churches."
She tossed to Hibbs who has been very active in politicking. In 2008, his parishioners were encouraged to sign petitions, available in the pews, to put the now overturned (Yay!) Prop 8 on the California ballot. In 2013 he was very active in the opposition to California's student transgender rights legislation - opposition validated by Fox News which used the opportunity to gin up "bathroom panic." Hibbs described the legislation as "the most dangerous bit of legislation in American history" and "an affront toGod."
He whined about how the "atheist group" has petitioned the government "to threaten the churches" which "speak out against cultural issues." As he spoke the chyron reinforced the agitprop: "Church crackdown? atheist lawsuit gives IRS room to "explore." He asked "where do they stop regarding our free speech, the pastor's ability and freedom to say whatever is involved in their culture..." Of course, it's more than culture, it's about church politicking and how that violates the First Amendment. As he spoke, film footage of Catholics receiving communion was shown. He whined that "we should say whatever God puts in our heart to say." (God hates fags, right?) The chyron: "They'll be watching, IRS to investigate religious non-profits." As the chyron quipped "Don't preach, violation could end tax exemption," Hasselbeck offered some profundity: "As history has proven in recent weeks and months...the IRS has some specific targeting particularly when it comes to a conservative message." She mentioned how African-American churches supported Obama and asked if they will be examined. Hibbs said he didn't think so. The chyron brought home the propaganda bacon: "Censoring churches, freedom of speech from the pulpit."
After whining about about the IRS, Hibbs predicted that if people don't speak up, we will lose all our freedoms. He encouraged the audience to support "Pulpit Freedom Sunday," an initiative to encourage pastors to, in violation of the IRS rules, endorse candidates from the pulpit and, of course, to say, from the pulpit, that God hates fags. Hasselbeck validated him with "well said, you raise a lot of interesting issues."
As right wing propaganda it was perfect - persecuted Christians, evil IRS, Obama loving black churches, and atheist bashing. Doesn't get any better than that!
Oral arguments in that case have just been scheduled for September 9, 2014 before a panel of 7th Circuit Court of Appeals judges in Chicago.
District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled the cash housing benefit for ministers ONLY as UNconstitutional.
That case has yet to get the media and public attention it deserves. After the 7th Circuit rules it looks like it is going to move on to the U.S. Supreme Court for a final decision since Congress and the President appear to have no political will to act and simply repeal the law.