October 3, 2016

New bill would protect churches with political views from the IRS

Churches concerned about Internal Revenue Service intervention if they engage in political speech should take a look at a proposed federal bill that promises fewer restrictions, the bill’s backers say.

“No tax exemption can be based on a requirement that a church or any other non-profit organization give up a constitutionally protected freedom, including free speech,” Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Erik Stanley said Sept. 29. “With regard to churches, they can decide for themselves what they should or shouldn’t say from the pulpit. Americans don’t need the IRS to be the referee.”

Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Jody Hice (R-Ga.) have introduced the Freedom of Speech Fairness Act, which claims to restore free speech and religious freedom to churches and other nonprofits. It would allow churches to make political statements in the ordinary course of the organization’s regular and customary activities, and if any expenditures on such statements are minimal.

The bill would ensure that a minister may make a comment about a political candidate or issue as part of a sermon. It would also allow a charity that sends out a monthly newsletter to occasionally include comments on political issues or candidates, according to Rep. Scalise’s office.

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