Sunday, May 15, 2005

Do Your Tax Dollars Support Right Wing Churches?

On most good days, I am not going to agree with anything David Hawpe of the Louisville Courier Joural says.

Today is looking like a very good day.

Hawpe rips Rep. Anne Northup (R-KY) for co-sponsoring the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act (HR 235) to return free speech rights to churches. The reason liberals wouldn't want this is obvious. What may not be so clear is how vital this issue is to America's future and why those who stand for freedom in this case deserve active support.

Critics on the left say changing the restriction on free speech for churches -- the one that threatens to take away tax-exempt status of non-profits engaging in improper speech -- amounts to taxpayer subsidies of political speech. The institutions whose tactics refute this argument are the taxpayer supported Corporation of Public Broadcasting and the liberal teachers and textbook writers in the public schools. They would cry bloody murder if someone tried to infringe upon their freedoms in similar fashion.

The language in IRS 501 (c) (3) is vague and overreaching. Did you know that your minister could face IRS punishment for speaking out against abortion, pornography, or pedophilia? The cause of this mess, the 1954 Johnson Amendment, abridged free speech for non-profits with the threat of imposed taxation. The reason this injustice has been allowed to persist is nearly all of the victims are conservative Christians. In the discussion of judicial filibusters, many have asked what might happen when the pendulum swings the other way and a Republican legislative minority would face imposition of liberal court nominees. But that is the wrong question.

Only one church in the fifty years of Johnson Amendment speech restrictions has lost its tax-exempt status. A more pertinent question may be what if the pendulum swings leftward to the extent that we have IRS agents staking out our churches in search of comments against declining moral values and the people who champion further social ruin? Amoral fascist success here may lead to threats we can't even imagine now.

When Governor Fletcher was in Congress he co-sponsored an earlier version of this bill. Kentucky Congressmen Lewis and Whitfield have joined Rep. Northup on the current one.

Expect the liberal media to be all over this if they suspect it may get a hearing. I think this fight may well become the most important one yet this year.

Democrats have overplayed their hands on everything else during this Congress. Think about this: wouldn't it be enlightening to see what Howard Dean might say about allowing ministers to speak frankly about the issues plaguing our nation? The Democrats understand the threat free churches pose to their base of power. This is an issue worth making some noise over.