RCJ says quit intimidating churches

From the Rapid City Journal:

A frequent criticism of HB1215 made by its liberal opponents is that the abortion ban law is an attempt by the far right to impose its religion on everyone else. It is left to one's political view whether that critique of HB1215 is hyperbole or fact. What is more bothersome is the apparent effort to frighten religious leaders and churches from speaking out about November's referendum on the abortion law by threatening to have the IRS revoke a church's tax-exempt status.

The Internal Revenue Service shouldn't be used as a tool to stifle free speech.

While there are some restrictions on non-profit organizations against involvement in political campaigns, we don't believe that religious leaders and churches should fear taking a stand on political matters.

There's a clear difference between actively campaigning for a candidate or ballot issue and discussing politics informally or even in sermons or official statements.


But churches, church leaders and congregations ought to be able to speak out about the political issues of the day free from fear of government harassment.

That's freedom of speech and "free exercise" of religion. It's protected by the Constitution.

Read it all here. I'm just going to stand back.


Bob Ellis said…
As I commented to my wife this morning, this editorial is a lot like Hezbollah coming out with a statement condemning terrorism.

I'm glad to see them finally come around to telling the truth...after running several articles over the past two months designed to intimidate Christians.

I may be nitpicking, because the bulk of the editorial is correct, but the statement about churches using their funds to support ballot issues was somewhat incorrect. They cannot use a "substantial" part of their resources, but courts have upheld the use of 5% to as high as 20% of their resources on support for ballot issues that fall within the realm of the church's moral authority. They just can't, according to IRS regulations for tax exempt organizations, spend a dime to support candidates or parties.
Anonymous said…
The Argus is the state's self-proclaimed defender of free speech rights. I wonder when the Argus Leader will come to the defense of these churches and their rights to free speech.

I bet they don't do it and if they do do it, it will be a backhanded "churches have rights but must play by the rules" type of editorial.

Where's Randall Beck the 1st Amendment Crusader when you need him? Inquiring minds want to know.
Anonymous said…
Hey Bob, are you ever going to tell us how old the Earth is? I'm sure your answer to that question will make your views on abortion that much more credible.

Waiting patiently,

Anonymous said…
I will be voting in favor of HB1215. I also believe that free speech is the greatest of our freedoms. However, IRS rules are IRS rules. They just need to be applied equally. If churches are going to be scrutinized for their role in HB1215, then so should other tax-exempt entities that want to defeat HB1215.
Ike said…
Views on abortion aside - Bob has a valid point, and he seems to be legally correct - unless someone has other information - and please share the citation. Taking a side on a specific ballot issue is considerably different than supporting candidates or parties.


There is no doubt where some churches stand on specific issues. The opinion is written into their guidelines, constitutions, voted on by their synods, opined by their bishops or hierarchy, or whichever way they choose. Churches have opinions on almost every issue - from abortion to homosexuality to drug use (legal & illegal).

The IRS more than likely will not start telling churches what they can and cannot say about certain issues. They can tell churches to not advocate for certain political candidates or parties - but church issues (some of which are now in the pulic foray) are fair game.

Moreover, those who are threatening churches could be in violation of the law, depending upon who these harassers are. FYI -false reports to the IRS can land you in jail. Smoke on that info for awhile ...
Anonymous said…
When Rev. King preached from the pulpits for social and yes POLITICAL and LEGAL change in the South, did the Left cry out for separation of church and state? Or threaten his church with revocation of its tax exempt status?

No, of course not.

When Catholic bishops outright excommunicated those in the South who refused to desegregate, did the left scream?

No, of course not.

When the Catholic bishops have issued letters and directives that are pro-welfare, anti-death penalty and the like, did I hear the liberals scream that it violated the 1st Amendment?

No, of course not.

When Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton and the like run for political office over and over, did those of the leftist bent hurl invectives against them daring to put their faith based beliefs into action?

No, of course not.

When Al Gore and Bill Clinton in the middle of their respective Presidential campaigns literally stood in pulpits of African American churches, did you hear the thud of the ACLU lawsuits hitting court tables across the United States?

No, of course not.

When faith and religion drive people to conclusions the secular left like politically (such as but not limited to anti-death penalty, pro-welfare) you will not hear a peep out of them. Those are "social justice" issues, they tend to say. That makes it AOK.

Yet when faith and religion drive people to conclusions the secular left DISlike politically (such as but not limited to anti-abortion) you will see the screams of the ACLU and the threats of a thousand lawsuits. "We have a separation of church and state" they tend to say. That the particular church's views happen to just run at odds to the secular liberals' is just a coincidence.
Anonymous said…
Oh please get off the persecuted Christian bandwagon. Rules are rules, and many churches have stepped over the line and are directly involved in the political aspect of this issue. Telling your congregation that your religion says YOU should not do "x". Is one thing. Telling them that they should do something related to a political activity or should go get involved in that political activity, letting that political group come to your church, handing out bumper stickers etc. are stepping over the line. Sadly some churches have become far too involved in politics. Some have seen the light and are now stepping out of politics. The crying about persecution is pathetic. Try living in South Dakota as a non-christian for a while. You will learn all about real harassment, discrimination and intimidation. This, done by the Christians now crying persecution.
Anonymous said…
anon 6:55, can you come up with some original material?

of course not.

or did you write something you're proud of and now you intend to use it over and over?

of course.
Anonymous said…
anon 8:02,

You need to be saved. As a non-Christian, you are, as I'm sure you're aware, doomed to burn in hell for eternity. Fire, pitchforks, red guy with horns, you know the deal. (Bob Ellis, back me up here.)

The kind people in SD (many of them anonymous commenters on this blog, myself included) are trying to save you from this fate.

Yes, we are self-righteous, but you can't spell righteous without r i g h t! I mean really, even though none of us will ever know what happens on the other side till we get to the other side, we on the RIGHT have a trusty Book that tells us all we need to know. And, whether you like it or not, it tells YOU all YOU need to know as well.

Why are you so ungrateful?

I, for one, am praying for you.

In Jesus's name,

Anonymous said…
Churches do have the right to talk about everything under the sun. A pastor can stand up to a congregation, and say "Abortion is wrong in every single circumstance. Even when a religious virgin is brutally sodomized, abortion is wrong. Keep that in mind as you vote. Also, people who vote against this ban are going straight to Hell, where they will sit with all of the other hippie-liberal, pinko-communist Democrats who hate America."

And that would be totally cool. No violation whatsoever. The only restraint that pastor has to show is in stopping short of directly telling people how to vote. He literally has to go so far as to ask someone to vote a particular way. When that happens, a church becomes a partisan organization and should be taxed just like all the other partisan organizations.

The RCJ editorial distorts the issue and implicitly buys the line about the poor, oppressed church. Please.
ike said…
actually, anon 10:12, I think the preacher could go so far as to say - this church believes in X and issue X is on the ballot in November. Yes is a vote for X, No is a vote anti-X. This church is praying that people vote for X. And if you vote anti-X, you may burn in the third ring.
Anonymous said…
The polling place for our area is located in a church basement. At the last general election, the poll workers had to instruct the minister and his wife to remove the Republican political signs that were hanging on the outside of the church windows and sitting in the yard of the parsonage. Christian churches need to stick to spreading Jesus' word and ministering to the people. If church members have feelings on political issues, one way or the other, let them pursue that on their own, outside of the church. That way, other church members who do not agree with them can continue to worship at their church without feeling pressure to conform or leave.

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