Many of you are aware that in 2008, ADF launched Pulpit Freedom Sunday. This initiative is intended to restore a pastor’s right to speak freely from the pulpit without fearing any government censorship or control. Pastors have the right to proclaim biblical truth from their pulpits without having to worry about the government looking over their shoulder and threatening their churches with revocation of tax exempt status if they say something the IRS doesn’t like.
On September 28, 2008, Alliance Defending Freedom conducted the first Pulpit Freedom Sunday. Starting with 33 pastors from 22 states in 2008, Pulpit Freedom Sunday participation has grown steadily to a high of 1621 participants in 2012. Pastors who have participated have openly preached sermons that make specific recommendations about the candidates for public office and, in many cases, these pastors send their sermons directly to the IRS.
So we are six years into the Pulpit Initiative. How has the IRS responded to the efforts of these pastors to restore their right to speak freely from their pulpits without IRS oversight?
Mostly, the IRS has remained silent. In 2008, one pastor was audited by the IRS but the IRS dropped that audit soon after it began. No other church has been audited by the IRS as a result of the church’s participation in Pulpit Freedom Sunday.
The IRS seems to have simply ignored Pulpit Freedom Sunday. So what is going through the IRS’ collective mind on this issue? Well, answering that question requires a level of prognostication and insight reserved for the Divine. But I think we can take some educated guesses as to what is going on.
First, the IRS may not be sure how to handle these pastors. There are a couple of pieces of evidence that may suggest that the IRS is simply unorganized in its efforts to respond to Pulpit Freedom Sunday. First, several pastors who participated in 2010 who sent their sermons to the IRS received basic form letters thanking them for their “referral” to the IRS of their situation. The letters are normally the kind of letters the IRS sends out to anyone who refers a possible violation of the regulations. Here is what the letter said:
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