Letter: A challenge to free speech
Once again John Burns reminds us (Public Forum, Oct. 24) of what the Internal Revenue Service says about churches and taxation. Let me remind Burns what the Constitution says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, o...
Once again John Burns reminds us (Public Forum, Oct. 24) of what the Internal Revenue Service says about churches and taxation. Let me remind Burns what the Constitution says: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech."
Twenty-two words written at the 10th-grade reading level. We should all be able to understand them. Does it say "no law," or does it say "except tax laws"? Does it say "free exercise thereof" or only if it doesn't violate IRS rules? Does it say freedom of speech except for churches with regard to political issues? It would seem to me that the inclusion of churches under the tax laws is, simply, unconstitutional.
Since 1954 churches have been included in IRS regulations. But guess what: Before 501(c)(3) status, churches were already tax-exempt. This country has never taxed churches. For Burns to claim that he pays more taxes because churches don't pay any is ludicrous. You pay higher taxes because of the people you elect to office.
Fortunately the IRS's control of churches and their right of free speech is being challenged. Contrary to what you might think, it is being challenged by a liberal church, not one of a "fundamentalist persuasion." One of the pastors spoke out against President Bush and the Iraq war shortly before the 2004 election.
"All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif., said Thursday it will go to court to fight the IRS, should the government agency take action to suspend its tax-exempt status. The Rev. Ed Bacon... said the church is protesting what he called 'an intolerable infringement of rights.'"
I may not agree with this church's political views, but I support their right to express them from the pulpit.
Several weeks ago Pastor Wayne Cook expressed his concerns about intimidation tactics being used in an attempt to silence the pastors of this community. It's unfortunate, but Cook is right.. Burns' latest letter appears to be one more threat attempting to abridge the freedom of religion and speech guaranteed by the Constitution.