Nothing to See Here, Move Along Now…

no-crossOr: “I thought all you right-wingers were nuts about the government interfering in religious matters.”

It’s getting rather tiresome at this point to mention the obvious. That the modern libertine movement and all its subsidiaries — especially Gay, Inc — would be used by the Federal government to suppress the free exercise of religion. But here’s the proof.

Oh, I realize that the IRS will only “monitor” sermons for “hate speech,” not actually do something, like arrest preachers. But that’s coming; it’s only a matter of time. After all, who would think that we’d get to the first point, where they would send in agents to “monitor” sermons? Certainly not all those Christian liberals who thought that us conservatives had overheated imaginations.

Nah, that would never happen.

Source: Investors Business Daily

First Amendment: Government’s assault on religious liberty has hit a new low as the IRS settles with atheists by promising to monitor sermons for mentions of the right to life and traditional marriage.

A lawsuit filed by the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) asserted that the Internal Revenue Service ignored complaints about churches’ violating their tax-exempt status by routinely promoting political issues, legislation and candidates from the pulpit.

The FFRF has temporarily withdrawn its suit in return for the IRS’s agreement to monitor sermons and homilies for proscribed speech that the foundation believes includes things like condemnation of gay marriage and criticism of ObamaCare for its contraceptive mandate.

The irony of this agreement is that it’s being enforced by the same Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division of the IRS that was once headed by Lois “Fifth Amendment” Lerner and that openly targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups.

Among the questions that the IRS asked of those targeted groups was the content of their prayers.

Those who objected to the monitoring of what is said and done in mosques for signs of terrorist activity have no problem with this one, though monitoring what’s said in houses of worship is a clear violation of the First Amendment. Can you say “chilling effect”?

Congress can make no laws prohibiting the free exercise of religion. So it’s not clear where the IRS gets off doing just that by spying on religious leaders lest they comment on issues and activities by government that are contrary to or impose on their religious consciences. Our country was founded by people fleeing this kind of government-monitored and mandated theology last practiced in the Soviet Union.

The FFRF cites as its authority the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which states that tax-exempt groups cannot endorse candidates. A 2009 court ruling determined that the IRS must staff someone to monitor church politicking.

The FFRF claims that the IRS has not adhered to the ruling and that the settlement amounts to enforcing both the Johnson Amendment and the court ruling.

But is the Catholic Church “politicking” when it proclaims its “Fortnight for Freedom” dedicated to opposing ObamaCare’s contraceptive mandate and the government’s forcing schools and charities it considers an extension of its faith to include it in insurance coverage or face crippling fines?

Are Protestant and evangelical churches “politicking” when they participate in “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” this year on Oct. 5 to encourage congregations to “vote their faith,” which they consider to be an exercise of free speech and freedom of religion?

The FFRF says that such events at “rogue churches” have “become an annual occasion for churches to violate the law with impunity.” But doesn’t the Constitution say that Congress can make no such laws?

Rather than “rogue churches,” it’s the rogue IRS that needs to be stopped.


  1. Monk James says

    While I’ve always resisted ‘political correctness’, I have to admit that I’ve observed its elevation to a sort of creed or SOP manual for people whose values are, for the most part, directly opposite mine.

    Our christian values of meekness, love, forgiveness, limitless second chances, sometimes seem so inadequate to respond to our contemporary Zeitgeist. Kyrie, eleEson!

    Now it seems to me that there is no orthodoxy so strict and stern as the orthodoxy of The Left.

    Cardinal Francis George, RC archbishop of Chicago, opined a few years ago that he might be the last bishop there to die in his bed. His successor in Chicago might well die in prison, he thought, and that man’s successor might be executed as a criminal. Or something like that.

    Are we made of the same stuff as the martyrs, ancient and modern? Lord, ‘rather than let us be put to the test, rescue us from the Evil One.’

    • Gail Sheppard says

      Some say the more “orthodox” were a byproduct of the 60s, but I don’t think so. These people didn’t turn on, tune in or drop out; they jumped off a cliff. Even liberals won’t claim them.

  2. As usual it’s all about the money. There is no garuntee of tax exemption in the constitution, rather it’s a socially positive policy. Where this should break down, and most people wont see it, is that charities claiming to be secular are religious institutions in their own right. Secularism, the religion of Antichrist, is attempting to put itself in place of Christ.

    • Pere LaChaise says

      Will Electioneering From the Pulpit Be the Next Big Battle Over ‘Religious Liberty’?

      “…Most at stake isn’t the freedom to worship or speak out, but eligibility for tax subsidies that are estimated to cost the government over $80 billion in revenues every year. As Dylan Matthews explained in The Washington Post, “Churches don’t pay property taxes on their land or buildings. When they buy stuff, they don’t pay sales taxes. When they sell stuff at a profit, they don’t pay capital gains tax. If they spend less than they take in, they don’t pay corporate income taxes. Priests, ministers, rabbis and the like get ‘parsonage exemptions’ that let them deduct mortgage payments, rent and other living expenses when they’re doing their income taxes. They also are the only group allowed to opt out of Social Security taxes (and benefits).”

  3. Nate Trost says

    As would be expected, there is a rather less inaccurately flamboyant write-up of the case.

    • A press release from the FFRF? No bias there.

      • Nate Trost says

        That wasn’t a release from the FFRF, if you want that, it would be here.

        If you are so concerned about potential bias, why are you not calling out parts of the posted IBD essays which are flat-out lies? Like:

        The FFRF has temporarily withdrawn its suit in return for the IRS’s agreement to monitor sermons and homilies for proscribed speech that the foundation believes includes things like condemnation of gay marriage and criticism of ObamaCare for its contraceptive mandate.

        The irony of course is that in the current climate of campaign finances laws being gutted to the point of anarchy, the danger isn’t that we are on the verge of some kind of IRS Gestapo sitting in the back of churches taking notes, but that old rules are being cast away giving powerful and monied interests a blank check to replace the Gospel of Christ with the Gospel of Frank Luntz in the pulpit. What is tragically amusing is the lack of recognition that once you let in that influence with purse strings, its agenda only equals the church’s moral agenda in as far as it’s a winning strategy. Then one day you wake up and the political machinery that has become vital to the fiscal operation of your ministry is pushing you to make adjustments to your moral perspectives. Because it polls better. And it’s not driven from some kind of government campaign of repression, but from the wolves you invited into the temple under the sheepskin of exercising religious liberty.

        There are a whole host of modern equivalents of the moneychangers in the temple just chomping at the bit to set up tables.

        • Gail Sheppard says

          Nate, our clergy will go to jail before they let the political machinery push them into making adjustments to our moral perspectives, because it polls better. They’ve fought off the wolves since mid-1st century; they’re not going to go weak in the knees now.

          May God give strength to them that turn the battle to the gate.

        • Under the “old rules”, the US Constitution, the federal regulation of anyone’s free speech or spending of money or practice of religion was not allowed.

          If there are money changers in our temples, let the Church deal with it. That’s not the government’s role.

        • Michael Bauman says

          Nate, your post makes no sense at all to me.

          • Nate Trost says


            That’s ok, your post expressing an apparent belief in the imminent repeal of the First Amendment and overthrow of a couple centuries of legal precedent in a country where it’s still virtually impossible to be elected to high office if you are a professed atheist/agnostic makes no sense to me either.

            • George Michalopulos says

              Give us time, Mr Trost, give us time.

            • Michael Bauman says

              The First Amendment will not be repealed, it will be interpreted into meaninglessness by Orwellian newspeak. That process has been in action for some time now. All speech except ‘hate’ speech is OK.(hate speech being anything the people in power don’t like) for one instance.

              The Establishment clause is used to restrict and punish displays of faith rather than its intended restriction of the government to regulate such displays while the free exercise clause is generally ignored. In reality, the two clauses cannot be separated but the legal precedent over the last 60 years has done just that. See here for a relevant example

              Or does bringing Hobby Lobby into the discussion automatically invalidate anything else I have to say? It does for some.

              The process will be impeded for awhile in ways it is not other places, but it will not be stopped without a drastic change in the political will as the secular, egalitarian impulse is to force uniformity and squeeze a living God out. For right now it is semi-OK to be ‘religious’ just don’t be too religious. Believe in private, but don’t actually try to act on those beliefs in the political sphere.

              Secular Christians are for all intents and purposes a-theist. For Pete’s sake, Nancy Pelosi and Kathleen Sebelius claim to be Catholic. George Stephanopolous is the son of a GOA priest. Each supports abortion, Sebelius rabidly so. Santorum, Huckabee and others on the Republican side of things seem to have a Christianity that dovetails quite well with their political ideology. They may be moralists, but that does not make them Christian or defenders of faith.

  4. Will Harrington says

    The solution is simple. Force the issue. Preach the gospel and let the chips fall where they may. It might be interesting to insist that any tax exempt atheist groups be likewise monitored, though.

    • Pere LaChaise says

      Another tempest in a paranoid teapot. Preachers ought to have the good sense to honor their own agreement to keep their noses out of partisan politics in order to preserve their churches’ tax exemptions. If they reconfigure Christianity (or what-have-you) into a mere bully pulpit for their politics, they are inviting scrutiny because they have abnegated their pulpit’s promised neutrality toward partisan politics. If they want to make over their church into a Republican Party hothouse (face it, we are talking about just this phenomenon, as not a parallel problem associated with the Democratic Party has come into existence), they have narrowed the message of the Gospel and purpose of their gathering, diverting it from its original and broader spiritual purpose.
      We should call a spade a spade and look for the historical development of this issue. I believe it can be traced back to Karl Rove’s organizing of the Republican ‘party base’ around social issues. Over the last few decades Rove’s nefarious influence has warped American political discourse and social mores – the sad state of talk radio can be directly attributed to him.

  5. Chris Banescu says

    The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sounds eerily similar to the fictitious Atheists of the World Who Hate Only Christians (AWWHOC) group I mentioned in my (formerly) satirical piece:

    All government employees in the city of Seattle have been informed that the word “cross” and the letters “T” and ‘t’, universal symbols for a Christian cross, are patently offensive and are banned from use in all official documents and communications. Encouraged by the enthusiastic support from liberal, progressive, and leftist organizations for originally banning the words “citizen” (offensive since many people are residents, not citizens) and “brown bag” (offensive to people of brown skin), Seattle’s Office of Civil Rights is expanding the list of banned discriminatory and hateful language.

    Dear citizens residents of Seattle, starting next Monday the word “cross” shall be removed from all official city publications. All previous press releases, official documents, memos, forms, publications, pamphlets, websites content, and any other city communications containing this intolerant word shall be immediately destroyed. We agree with the complaint filed by The Atheists of the World Who Hate Only Christians group who consider the word “cross” to be extremely offensive to atheists. The city’s Office of Civil Rights, as guardian and protector of the public good, agrees and has now banned usage of “cross” phraseology in all city government communications. Please cease and desist all usage of the word “cross.”

    Banned Phrases and Words:
    “Crossing the street”
    “Railroad crossing”
    “Crossword Puzzle”

    Acceptable Substitute Phrases and Words:
    “Marked-path on road”
    “Traveling through the street”
    “Railroad area where train travels”
    “At-right-angles-word Puzzle”


    Dear citizens, residents of Seattle, it was brought to our attention by the Atheists of the World Who Hate Only Christians group that the letter “T” is just as offensive and hateful since it’s a universal symbol for a cross.

    Therefore, effective immediately all city employees must hereby stop using the letter “T” either in lower or upper case form. Please substitute it with the letter “L” which is a much more inclusive replacement (as evidenced by the words Liberal, Left, Leftism, and Lenin) and a significantly less offensive letter of the capitalist alphabet.

    You are hereby ordered to remove, destroy, or block said intolerant letter from all keyboards on all computers, tablets, smartphones, and any other mobile devices. Failure to comply with this reasonable policy will result in the immediate firing of all offending individuals.

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

      Back when my children were very young, I chanced to watch “Sesame Street” with them one day. Bert was explaining to Ernie the meaning of a baked delicacy we had always called “Hot Cross Buns.” Bert could not simply say”cross.” It had to be “criss-cross.”

      The spell-check on this computer always tries to correct the word “Cross” when it begins with a capital letter.

      It appears that the fix is in.

    • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

      If you can’t find a publisher, there’s always Monomakhos, Chris!

  6. Like it or not (and I don’t like it at all), the FFRF is correct about the fact that the IRS has not adhered to the court ruling concerning the Johnson Amendment for decades. It’s been largely ignored by everyone except law-abiding religious organizations. This is primarily due to the fact that most direct political endorsements occurred in black churches. But, of course, the FFRF conveniently had no concerns about blatant, open church endorsements of political candidates or parties that were mainly focused on the promotion of the Welfare State, having little or nothing to do with actual Christianity.

    Only when the freedom of religion is actually exercised do they express an concern for the law, notwithstanding the fact that the “Fortnight for Freedom” and other similar legitimate religion-based movements are extremely careful never to mention specific candidates or parties.

    There is only one answer to the onslaught of hostility to true Christianity that will allow us (for a time) to maintain our freedom: Prepare now – RIGHT NOW – for the time when we will be forced to forfeit our tax-exempt status. As much as hate to admit it, this attack on us has a tiny degree of merit under the law as it now stands, for it is not about the free exercise of religion; it is about tax exemptions. Nevertheless, Churches have perfect grounds under our Constitution to challenge this vigorously in court as long as no political candidates or parties are mentioned.

    Pity that the Constitution itself is largely ignored in the courts, and thus we can have no assurance whatsoever that our the government will respect the rights it supposedly guarantees. Persecution is coming, and it will get progressively worse. We must prepare now to face it with faith in the Most High.

    • Michael Bauman says

      My parish has been preparing for years for this possibility. After one recent pointed sermon on the unreality of homosexual marriage, I had the conversation with my priest about such an eventuality. It is one of the main reasons we have an endowment that we continue to build up.

      The sword with giving up the tax exemption is the probability that ‘religious property’ or property with significant ‘religious use’ will be taxed at a much higher rate than personal, commercial property or educational property.

      No easy way out.

    • Nate Trost says

      I find this statement rather disturbing:

      This is primarily due to the fact that most direct political endorsements occurred in black churches. But, of course, the FFRF conveniently had no concerns about blatant, open church endorsements of political candidates or parties that were mainly focused on the promotion of the Welfare State, having little or nothing to do with actual Christianity.

      Only when the freedom of religion is actually exercised do they express an concern for the law

      Since, at its core, it pretty much 1) specifically stereotypes black churches 2) makes a broad general categorization that churches populated by blacks are concerned with primarily with welfare and have little or nothing to do with actual Christianity 3) insinuates these churches aren’t exercising freedom of religion by their actions, that’s only for the right sort of churches!

      Someone needs a long time-out in the corner with some sprituals.

      Less troubling but still notable is the assertion that the FFRF doesn’t care about such transgressions by such stereotypical churches, with no evidence whatsoever to back up that assertion. But compared to the galling racism it’s barely worth mentioning!

      • Nonsense. Although to be expected. The comment wasn’t about black churches, black people, or even the Welfare state. It was about the IRS.

        Some fancy themselves to have the ability to peer into the hearts of others for the purpose of making judgments while those who truly possess such gifts of the Spirit exercise them for the healing of the human person.

        • Some people act as though language can only be taken at its most literal meaning and that it doesn’t evoke history. Try that the next time you say “Jews have a disproportionate influence in Wall Street” – it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. What matters to the listener is that Jewish influence in financial affairs has long been used to justify the worst forms of anti-Semitism and persecution. Likewise, the specter of the welfare state has been used to justify all sorts of racist attitudes towards American blacks. One would be wise to avoid mixing welfare state rhetoric with talk of black churches. And one who complains about the favors black churches receive, and then complains about welfare in the next breath, ought to examine his heart as well.

          • Matt,

            I appreciate what you are saying, but I prefer not to confuse (false) perceptions and emotional responses with facts.

            Please note that the comment was not a complaint. It was an observation about IRS enforcement of the Johnson Amendment court ruling. As far as I am concerned, the Johnson Amendment is unconstitutional. All churches should be free to speak and act as they please – even politically.

            As to the Welfare state, here are the facts. Whites and blacks receive Welfare benefits in almost equal measure.


  7. pegleggreg says

    tell us more about Putin’s freedom of religion

  8. M. Stankovich says

    I await the day when the IRS steps into the venue of Bob Jones or Liberty University, or engages Pastor Rick Warren or any of the mega-church pastors with anything that appears as retribution for speaking the truth of the Gospel as they understand it. The walls of the US Congress will shake. Unfortunately, we Orthodox have become such mouth-breathers and dependent upon cowardly “anonymity” that we actually entertain such foolishness as possibility. Who would have thought that the last keepers of the Truth, the ones who on the night of His Passion, the Lord instructed in the trials and martyrdom which are to come, when facing trials, would be so insecure and impotent? I personally have never explored Rick Warren’s “theology,” but hearing him speak on CNN as to why, for example, he would not change his opinion on same-sex marriage – “I fear God more than I fear GLAAD” – was as close to someone speaking as Ezekiel as I have heard in years. Apparently, we lack the heart.

    • Michael Bauman says

      Michael S., 600 years of mostly constant persecution on the centers of faith tend to wear one down don’t you think. The attitude tends to be one of not making waves even amongst those who are not under such persecution.

      You are right though, it needs to be addressed. However, I rather suspect Bishop Basil and the clergy of his diocese and the majority of Antiochian clergy would react rather differently than the scenario you propose, but I could be wrong.

      I do have faith that, should it be necessary, martyrs will be raised up.

      • M. Stankovich says

        Michael Bauman,

        It took me a very long time to appreciate the comment of Fr. Alexander Schmemann one rainy Friday morning in class, at the height of the Cold War, when he said: “If the Communists burst through this door with weapons in their hands and demanded we all renounce the Faith or die immediately, most of us would choose martyrdom. But only a very few would stand up to them before dying.” Today, I believe him, if only because on the internet, everyone anonymously claims to be among those “very few.”

        I walk among the the sick, yet I am helpless to heal; I have prayed that a man’s heart would turn, yet he is returned to prison before I have finished the paperwork. How is it possible that with the faith the size of grain of mustard seed, “nothing shall be impossible to you?” (Mt. 17:20) Well, apparently Mr. Mortiss is the only one in the house to understand that we “have to reap” but are “wicked and lazy,” even when we knew the words of the Master, “I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed.” (Matt. 25:26) I then have to ask myself, “Why could I not cast him [the demon] out?” and fully expect the response of the Lord, “Because of your unbelief.” (Mt. 17:19) So, in the face of so much failure and lack of inspiration on the part of the anonymous “heroes” of the internet, I reasonably conclude they are poseurs.

        When you say, Michael Bauman, “I do have faith that, should it be necessary, martyrs will be raised up,” I agree with you, and I believe in the joy in heaven when their crowns are received. But I also believe in the observation of Fr. Alexander, that among the Holy Martyrs are those who selflessly stood up to even those within, and who remained faithful to the Truth, to ultimately break the spirit of discouragement. The Church recognizes them as pillars of Orthodoxy and Great Martyrs, Champions and Victors. The question is not if, but when, and thankfully, the Lord has prepared us.

        • Michael Bauman says

          As you know Michael Stankovich, martyrs are witnesses and not all die. It will be much more difficult if we are simply ignored and seen as irrelevant. However the devil’s desire to destroy and make public what he thinks is victory probably won’t allow that to continue for very long.

          I try to take joy in all that I have been given including the challenges.

          • M. Stankovich says

            Michael Bauman,

            My example of Fr. Schmemann’s comment, obviously, was the extreme, and as you note, martyrs are indeed witnesses. There is no doubt that the majority of us who witness will face strife, confrontation, and varying consequences including censure and ostracism. We already see individuals in public positions, forced to make the most ridiculous apologies or “sensitized” in a manner likened to a Soviet “re-education camp” for their private opinions and beliefs. Or in the case of the CEO of Mozilla, a co-founder of the organization, being outright forced to resign from his own company for his private belief.

            This is all the more reason to disrespect and distance from the “anonymous,” who unceasingly mock and denigrate every aspect of the ecclesiological authority of the Church – from its God-anointed hierarchs, to its councils and decisions – yet fear men more than they fear God, lest they be “found out” for who they really are.

            “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mk. 8:38)

            I had the occasion this week to experience a truly disconcerting event in my own family that reminds me of the coming strife. My first cousin, a man who was inspiration to me as I grew up, with a doctorate in Geography and the author of a renowned study of Micronesia, was visiting for a month or so, and we engaged in many discussions in the time he was here. He is a very liberal, Viet Nam era forward retired university professor, and when the discussions turned to abortion, gay marriage, and same-sex marriage, and I told him of situations where I could not ethically work with patients, he went ballistic! Over the course of several days he called me “medieval,” unethical, ignorant & brainwashed, and finally, he said he was ashamed of me. At that point, enough was enough, and I left. He later ignored my phone calls & email, and returned to Asia on Wednesday without contacting me. This is an insignificant, petty “witness,” that pales in comparison to a parent making a decision about what their child will learn in public school. Yet it is heartbreaking to me. He is 76-years old and I may never see him again. My immediate family was angry, “Why did you have to do that?” Indeed.

            I too try to take joy in all that I have been given including the challenges. It’s the consequences – which only stand to increase – where the joy wanes and the strength of Church is necessary.

            • Michael Bauman says

              M. Stankovich: I post with my own name and personal details for two reasons: 1. It won’t be as easy for me to recant if faced with genuine persecution, and 2. If I get out of hand, I can be called into account with a call to my bishop or priest.

              Still, I understand the desire for anonymity. I don’t let it become a big deal because the truth will be made known one way or another. Seek always for the truth and you may have to change but it will always lead you in the right direction.

              The unreasonable anger from your relative is unfortunate, but don’t know what effect your witness will have on him in the long run.

            • Archpriest Andrei Alexiev says

              Here, Dr. Stankovich, I sympathize with you.

          • Bishop Tikhon Fitzgerald says

            Michael Baumann, in our ORTHODOX Church, Martyrs are those who suffer death rather than deny Christ.. Great Martyrs are those who suffer death after long and great sufferings rather than deny Christ. For example, Saint Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, and Saint Nikolaj, Bishop of Zhicha, both were witnesses, but they are not categorized as Martyrs, but rather as Confessors. What you may feel about yourself is called a “martyr complex”, and it’s not Orthodox at all.

            • Michael Bauman says

              I don’t feel it about myself at all, your grace. I am not worthy to be considered even a tepid witness. However, the call to witness to the truth is the same for all of us. Jesus Christ decides the extent of that witness. I am confident that our Lord will raise up folks as needed to the extent that they are needed to witness even unto death. That is highly unlikely to be me or mine but I would be a fool to think it could not happen.

              Are we to honor the confessors less than the ‘real’ martyrs because Jesus Christ was merciful and did not require that of them?

              What of those quietly faithful Orthodox who bear the countless temptations to deny Christ throughout a long life? Is that not where the stuff of martyrs is forged and tempered for the most part? Again, I am not worthy to be considered amongst even them but I honor those I know who are like that.

              Personally, I glory as much in the witness of one such as Matushka Olga as I do the Great Martyr James who’s relics rest in the altar of my home parish. I am equally astounded and encouraged by both even as I recognize my own weakness.

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      Mr. Stankovich’s post says a lot. It’s hard not to marvel at the quietude and ‘anonymity’ of the Orthodox Church is this country. Leaving the Protestants entirely to the side, everywhere the Catholics (the other latter-day ‘immigrant church’) went in North America, they sent out the ‘black robes’, founding colleges, hospitals, parochial schools and high schools, and much more. They looked outward, not only inward. Sure, there were a lot more of them.

      Here, people find the Orthodox Church and trickle in, usually by the pathways that most of us are familiar with. The Church doesn’t go find them and exhort them and bring them in.

      A big subject, of course…..some of the harvest of the hundreds of thousands, and more, who have fled and still flee the ‘mainline churches’ ought to be ours– but we have to reap!

      • Jim of Olym says

        Well, this past Sunday we had the baptisms of two young men who have become ‘entranced’ by the beauty of the Orthodox faith! Both have lately started singing in our choir, which is a blessing to me personally as my voice (quasi-tenor) isn’t what it used to be twenty years ago. And the guy can actually read notes! Wow!

        Many are called but few are chosen, and some respond!