Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Protect and Preserve your Right to Free Speech from the Pulpit!

Have you been following the news story about All Saint's Episcopal Church in Pasadena California?

On Friday Sept. 15, the rector (Episcopalian priest) of this church was served with a subpoena to obtain e-mails and websites postings and newsletters of the church. This request stems from a sermon delivered in 2004 by an interim pastor that was deemed to be partisan. The IRS is now investigating whether the churches' tax exempt status was violated because perhaps they have taken a "political" position.

If you'd like to follow this story, All Saint's Church in an effort to be totally open and transparent, has posted all the relevant documents including sermons, subpoenas, press releases, etc... on their website.

Also, they are going to challenge the IRS and are inviting groups and individuals to support them by setting up a legal defense fund which you can contribute to online.

Here's where you can go read the documents and make your own evaluation.

For me, this crosses an extremely dangerous line. Church rolls were not being used to solicit votes nor were individual candidates' names being lauded or demonized from the pulpit. (Compare and contrast to the situation in several church in Ohio which are also under investigation for those activities.) This investigation by the IRS could have a deeply chilling effect on the freedom of religious activity.

As members of churches, we need to support and protect our pastors' right to comment on national and worldwide events from the pulpit (or newsletters or e-mails) from their Christian Perspective--whatever that may be. This is the essence of the free exercise of religion! I stand in Hesed with All Saints as they challenge both the IRS position as well as their methods of investigation!

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