King George vs. Religion

November 2005


The Internal Revenue Service has started a number of investigations recently into churches that voice opinions contrary to Bush's policies. The threat is that if you speak your mind and your conscience, you will lose your tax exempt status.

All Saints Episcopal church in Pasadena, California invited a speaker to address their congregation last November. This speaker was critical of the war in Iraq and of many of the policies aggressively espoused by the Bush administration. Recently, the IRS has begun an investigation of this church to determine whether their tax exempt status should be pulled because their church was used to implicitly recommend voting against Bush and the Republican party.

The tax laws were originally made so that a political organization, like a fundraising political action committee, for example, could not buy a couple of Bibles and call themselves a church to avoid paying taxes. There is good sense in this.

Where the good sense stops is when the people in power use these rules to try to stifle free speech and to prevent people of conscience and principle from saying or doing anything substantive in support of any cause that runs contrary to the current policy of the government.

Not far from where I live, there is a Baptist church. Behind their altar is an eighteen-foot high picture of George W. That picture has been there since 2003. The IRS isn't coming to their door and threatening them with loss of their tax exempt status because they're implicitly supporting the current administration.

The worst result of this kind of government repression is that it drives away the best, most committed people of principle. It stifles the ability of well-meaning organizations to get and keep good people of conscience involved in what they do. If aggressively pursued, this kind of policy causes the formation of extremist fringe groups who have been marginalized out of participation in mainstream organizations. Take your pick: mediocrity or extremism.

It is yet another of the current administration's Big Lies that claims to be doing one thing, while doing precisely the opposite. It is diametrically opposed to everything this country was founded upon -- things like religious and political freedom, free speech, right to organize, and right to dissent. We need to do some roll-back of our own to recapture the true meaning of liberty and equality in every State of the Union. Only by returning to our egalitarian roots can we preserve the greatness of this nation.

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