This coming Sunday, October 7th, is Pulpit Freedom Day, and hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of clergy (mostly Christian) will violate the IRS ban on political endorsements by clergy of tax-exempt institutions. I support them 99%. Where I disagree is this: they want to keep their tax exempt status even as they flaunt the rules attached to it. I want them to renounce their tax exempt status.
The power to tax equals the power to destroy, and because that is thought to be true religions are protected from government intrusion by being exempted from taxes. But I don’t want religion protected from the government by the government (which of course suggests the protection is illusory at best). I want religion to take a prophetic stand against government corruption, abuse, overreach, and immorality, and it can do this best when it has some skin in the game.
Whether or not you like the result or not (and I don’t), you have to admit that Christianity in the Soviet Union, and Islam in secular Arab dictatorships like that of Mubarak’s Egypt were forces for revolutionary (or devolutionary) change. I have no doubt that if secular America really sought to destroy religion in the United States (as opposed to the faux wars on religion ginned up on Fox News), it would face no less an oppositional force than that in Communist and Muslim countries.
I will be preaching this Sunday at our local Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (something I do almost monthly), but I won’t be endorsing a candidate. Here’s why:
1) Pat Paulson isn’t running; and
2) I’m not the leader of this community and it isn’t my place to jeopardize their relationship with the IRS.
Even if I did lead a congregation, however, I would still refrain from endorsing a candidate because I wouldn’t want to put a barrier between myself and those who might vote differently than me.
It seems to me that Pulpit Freedom Day ought to be a day when clergy urge their congregations to abandon their tax exempt status, and take their place in the trenches fighting the immorality of government without at the same time having the government protect them from taxation. Doing anything less—breaking the rules without being willing to pay the price—is cheap theatrics and cowardly.