The following is a copy of our press release on the matter.
IRS says it’s closing its audit of pastor’s sermon encouraging church attendees not to vote for Obama in 2008 presidential election though it leaves the door open to further inquiry.
MINNEAPOLIS – Tom Prichard, President of the Minnesota Family Council, said today the IRS backed down from enforcing its regulation prohibiting pastors from expressly endorsing or opposing political candidates from the pulpit, yet seeks to maintain a cloud of uncertainty for pastors opposing or supporting political candidates from the pulpit. The case involves Warroad, MN, Pastor Gus Booth.
“This looks like a clear case of intimidation. The IRS is refusing to enforce its regulation prohibiting pastor endorsement of or opposition to political candidates from the pulpit yet leaves the door open to future enforcement of its controversial regulation. It looks like a classic David versus Goliath confrontation. However, in this instance Goliath, while unwilling to fight, wants to intimidate pastors into silence by maintaining uncertainty in the law,” said Prichard.
The pastor, Gus Booth from Warroad, MN, delivered a sermon from his church’s pulpit on September 28, 2008, encouraging those in attendance not to vote for then candidate Barack Obama because of his pro-abortion positions. Booth then sent his sermon to the IRS. Pastor Booth was participating in the Alliance Defense Fund’s “Pulpit Freedom” Sunday initiative which encouraged pastor’s to challenge the IRS regulation that prohibits pastors from explicitly supporting or opposing political candidates from the pulpit.
The IRS said it was closing the examination of Booth’s case, though it left the door open to future consideration. See http://www.telladf.org/UserDocs/IRSletterClosingFile.pdf for a copy of the IRS’ letter to Pastor Booth.
"Pastors should be free to speak or not to speak in opposition to or support of political candidates according to the dictates of their consciences. They shouldn't have their free speech rights, guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, undermined by the IRS. Yet that appears to be what the IRS is trying to do in this instance," concluded Prichard.