Please, Try It

A bunch of religious conservatives have decided that they don’t like the law that bars nonprofits from engaging in partisan politics. So they are going to simply defy the law and see what happens:

A conservative legal-advocacy group is enlisting ministers to use their pulpits to preach about election candidates this September, defying a tax law that bars churches from engaging in politics.

Alliance Defense Fund, a Scottsdale, Ariz., nonprofit, is hoping at least one sermon will prompt the Internal Revenue Service to investigate, sparking a court battle that could get the tax provision declared unconstitutional. Alliance lawyers represent churches in disputes with the IRS over alleged partisan activity.

I can’t imagine that they have a chance. The Journal notes that there is already a 2000 ruling on the books that upholds the law, so this has been tested relatively recently. Their argument would be that because the IRS bans political endorsements by nonprofits “the federal government is burdening the free exercise of religion and cannot do so without a compelling state interest.”

That reading seems nuts to me. The law doesn’t impede religion at all. Churches and pastors are completely free to endorse any candidate they want. Its just that if they want to do that they have to pay taxes on all the money the church collects. Obviously, churches’ don’t want to have to pay taxes, so most churches stay out of partisan politics. But it is completely within the federal government’s power to set rules that an organization has to comply with to be exempt what would otherwise be their obligations under federal law.

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