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Monday
Sep272010

Pastors Defy IRS on 'Pulpit Freedom Sunday'

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.) -- Nearly 100 pastors across the country took part in Pulpit Freedom Sunday, which took place on Sept. 26.  The event was an in-your-face challenge to what the government says can and cannot be said in church.  The pastors, along with the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based nonprofit Alliance Defense Fund, planned Sunday's event as a reaction to a law stating that churches are not allowed to support politicians from the pulpit, according to the ADF.  The growing trend is a challenge to the IRS from the churches, and may jeopardize their all-important tax-exempt status. But some pastors and church leaders said they are willing to defy the law to defend their right to freedom of speech.  Pastor Dan Fisher from Trinity Baptist Church in Yukon, Okla., who took part in Sunday's challenge pointed out in his sermon that separation of church and state is not in the constitution, but the government uses tax exemption as a means to enforce that notion."  Federal tax law, established in 1954, prohibits churches and tax exempt entities from endorsing or opposing political candidates.  Robert Marvin, an IRS spokesman, told ABC News, "We are aware of the recent press reports, and will monitor the situation and take action as appropriate."  ADF spokesman Erik Stanley said, "The whole goal is to foster a lawsuit where we could challenge the constitutionality of the law."  Despite the growing number of participating churches, there are some clergy that believe the participating churches have plenty to lose.  Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State commented, "Tax exemption is not a right; it's a privilege that comes with certain restrictions."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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