A California Episcopal church threatened with the loss of its tax-exempt status over a two-year-old sermon is fighting the IRS on the matter. Officials at All Saint's Church (why always with the saints? don't sinners deserve a place to go too?) in Pasadena are refusing to turn over documents, etc. Legal hijinks ensue.
The fooferaw stems from a pre-2004 presidential election sermon titled "If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush." My initial reaction? Jesus would probably win, without even having to resort to water into wine (though you can never serve enough booze). My second reaction? If Jesus returned to an Episcopal church in Pasadena, my nonexistent faith would be shattered even more than it already is; the only thing more disappointing would be if he showed up at a Unitarian clubhouse.
And where in hell would I unload all my "In Case of Rapture, This Car Will Be Unmanned" bumper stickers?
The sermon, delivered by a guest pastor, slammed Bush and the Iraq War, though it apparently did not come out and tell folks to vote for Kerry. In other words, it was just like pretty much every Democratic speech in 2004.
Money quote (so to speak) from the IRS:
"We recognize the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and religion," Lemons said. "But there is no constitutional right to be exempt from federal taxation."
Money quote from Muslim leader who actually has nothing to do with the story:
"We smell intimidation, it smells rotten, and we should not allow any aspect of intimidation to be directed to any member of our great country," said Maher Hathout, senior adviser of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Money quote from AP story on why this is a non-story for the most part (though it is disturbing whenever the IRS hassles anyone, even if it's true that tax-exempt status of churches, schools, and nonprofits is dubious at best):
According to the IRS, the only church ever to be stripped of its tax-exempt status for partisan politicking was a church near Binghamton, N.Y., that ran full-page newspaper ads against President Clinton during the 1992 election season.
Whole bit here.