Monday, September 24, 2007

Church wants apology over politically motivated probe

Now we know the armchair hawks don't have anything better to do with their wasted lives than sit around scouring all the major newspapers for signs of dissent.

A couple years ago, the government threatened All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, over a former rector's antiwar remarks that were made before the 2004 election. The IRS warned it might revoke the church's tax-exempt status because of the rector's antiwar views.

This threat was so clearly politically motivated that it was astonishing the government had the audacity to even issue it - and even more shocking that it actually carried out an investigation. IRS guidelines say that for churches to keep their tax-exempt status, they can't endorse candidates. But All Saints Episcopal Church didn't endorse a candidate. And this guideline is strictly an IRS matter, meaning only the IRS is authorized to investigate alleged violations. But in this case the Justice Department got involved as well.

And you know it's politically motivated, because look at all the wingnut Pat Robertson-type churches that have endorsed conservative candidates and causes, but which the IRS refuses to investigate, even after citizen complaints. The probe of All Saints wasn't even initiated by a citizen complaint but by government observers searching news articles for antiwar statements by ministers. Conservative churches have actually been telling worshipers how to vote, yet they don't get investigated, even though that runs afoul of the IRS rule. But more progressive churches get investigated even when they don't endorse candidates.

A letter from the IRS to the church stated that their "concerns" arose from an article in the Los Angeles Times that discussed the antiwar sermon. Our tax dollars are paying government workers to sit around and read newspapers until they find articles like this?

One 70-year-old congregant said of the government's probe, "I'm appalled." A tax attorney said he knew of 2 other churches that received similar letters for views that contradicted the Bush regime.

Last year, the IRS ordered All Saints to turn over all e-mails and documents that it possessed from the 2004 campaign that even referred to any political candidates. The church was also ordered to hand over all its utility bills. The church was warned that its case would be referred to Bush's alleged Justice Department if it did not comply - which was clearly an act of political intimidation. (As more proof of Bush's intolerance of dissent, the Bush regime also launched an IRS probe of the NAACP because its chairman, Julian Bond, dared to criticize Bush.)

Now All Saints wants an apology from the IRS over this politically motivated harassment. The IRS has ended its probe, after accusing the church of engaging in an illegal sermon. (An illegal sermon???) The church also wants the Treasury Department to investigate the Justice Department's involvement in the investigation. The IRS probe cost the congregation roughly $200,000 costly dollars.

In summary, a church actually got in trouble with Bush's Justice Department goons because a former rector said the Iraq War "has led to disaster." Those who still insist the United States isn't a dictatorship can kindly recline their mouths to a closed position now.


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