President John Adams said, “Nothing is more dreaded than the national government meddling with religion.” However, the federal government may be signaling its intention to forego the wisdom of President Adams. Recently, a Wisconsin-based atheist organization hailed its “victory” over the IRS after settling a lawsuit alleging the agency had failed to enforce the federal tax code laws prohibiting tax-exempt religious groups from electioneering.
Since 1954, the Johnson Amendment has expressly prohibited pastors from endorsing political candidates through sermons delivered from the pulpit. Such actions are what the IRS has monitored since the implementation of that law. But never has the federal government gone beyond that and attempted to police the content of sermons preached from the pulpit even where there is no specific candidate endorsement.
The lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation complained to the IRS about so-called electioneering violations by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association after it urged citizens in newspaper ads to vote along biblical principles. The atheists also complained about a letter an Illinois Roman Catholic Bishop sent to Catholics stating, “Catholic politicians, bureaucrats, and their electoral supporters who callously enable the destruction of innocent human life in the womb also thereby reject Jesus as their Lord.”
Those actions clearly are not candidate endorsements, but are examples of pastors and priests exhorting their flocks to abide by important lessons from the Scriptures. The law allows clergy to address important societal issues such as the sanctity of life or the sanctity of marriage. It would be troubling, to say the least, if the IRS has agreed to take punitive action against churches based on the content of sermons delivered from the pulpit. Yet, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is claiming victory because the group said the IRS has agreed to new protocols regarding enforcement of the federal tax code.
My office has asked both the IRS and Department of Justice for a copy of the settlement agreement and any new enforcement protocols agreed to as part of the settlement. Shockingly, the federal agencies have yet to respond to our request. We remain undeterred in our effort to obtain this information. I have also written to Oklahoma pastors and clergy to encourage them to contact my office if they encounter new IRS protocols.
The founders of our country clearly believed in the importance of protecting the ability of Americans to freely exercise their faith, enshrining that very right in the First Amendment of our constitution. The First Amendment also guarantees our right to free speech, which at its core protects our ability to engage in the political process. Where those two fundamental rights intersect hangs the right of religious organizations to encourage their members to engage in the political process in a manner consistent with the core tenets of their religions. The IRS shouldn’t punish pastors and priests for the content of their sermons and should they try the agency will be met swiftly and strongly by my office in the courtroom.
Governor Fallin today released the following statement in response to the United States Supreme Court’s decision to reject the appeal of a lower court ruling striking down an Oklahoma constitutional provision defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman. The Oklahoma amendment passed in 2004 by a vote of the people, with over 75 percent of voters supporting it.
“The people of Oklahoma have the right to determine how marriage is defined. In 2004, Oklahomans exercised that right, voting by a margin of 3-1 to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
“The will of the people has now been overridden by unelected federal justices, accountable to no one. That is both undemocratic and a violation of states’ rights. Rather than allowing states to make their own policies that reflect the values and views of their residents, federal judges have inserted themselves into a state issue to pursue their own agendas.
“Today’s decision has been cast by the media as a victory for gay rights. What has been ignored, however, is the right of Oklahomans – and Americans in every state – to write their own laws and govern themselves as they see fit. Those rights have once again been trampled by an arrogant, out-of -control federal government that wants to substitute Oklahoma values with Washington, D.C. values.”
Attorney General Scott Pruitt announced that Oklahoma joined nine other states in an amicus, or friend of the court, brief in the United States Supreme Court to support an Arizona church’s fight against a local sign ordinance that the church says stifles its freedoms under the First Amendment.
The brief asks the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that upheld a sign ordinance passed by the Town of Gilbert, Ariz., which places size limitations on signs put up by churches and non-profit entities, but does not impose similar restrictions on other signs, including political signs. A local church, Good News Community Church, and its pastor, Clyde Reed, filed the lawsuit against the ordinance.
“Religious liberty is not only a fundamental right, but it was also one of the founding principles of our country,” Attorney General Pruitt said. “This current ruling of the Ninth Circuit creates an avenue for government to systematically favor speech, and in this case, disadvantage religious speech. By joining in the amicus brief, we hope to ensure that religious liberty continues to be protected by the First Amendment.”
The Town of Gilbert’s ordinance restricts signs promoting the events, meetings, or activities of non-profit groups, including local churches, while it broadly permits any political or ideological signs. For example, political signs can be up to 32 square feet, displayed for many months, and unlimited in number. An ideological sign can likewise be up to 20 square feet, displayed indefinitely, and unlimited in number. A church’s signs however can only be 6 square feet, may be displayed for no more than 14 hours, and are limited to four per property.
The brief was signed by attorneys general from nine other states, including West Virginia, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.
Some parts of our world have gone mad. Stark, raving, mad. Stone cold nutso.
Firefighters in Illinois are told by their chief to remove American flag decals from their helmets because they might be viewed as racist.
Ferguson, Missouri, is held hostage by “demonstrators,” some of whom have looted and burned.
A city orders a 2nd Amendment flag taken down but allows a Muslim flag to be raised.
A 3rd grader who bites a piece of food into the shape of a pistol is suspended and sent home for three days.
The race (?) for governor of Oklahoma so far is a yawner. Democrat Joe Dorman is digging for traction, but the arrows he’s shooting aren’t hitting the target, much less the bullseye. Dorman and his supporters are throwing mostly wild punches in a mad dash to cut Fallin’s lead.
Panera Bread bans law-abiding citizens and their firearms, joining other retailers who have done the same. What…only bad guys with guns now allowed?
A 1st grade boy who kisses a female classmate on the cheek is suspended for sexual harassment.
Why does a 2-hour examination and treatment at a hospital ER cost $1,200?
How can our president declare to the world that we have no strategy for dealing with an international situation? If George Bush had said that, the media would have pummeled him without mercy and painted him as wearing a dunce cap.
From Detroit: An army officer is told he can’t enter his daughter’s Metro Detroit high school this morning because he’s wearing his uniform.
Nebraska’s Lieutenant Governor Lavon Heidemann announced his resignation, both from office and as running mate to a GOP gubernatorial candidate, after a judge granted a restraining order against him to his sister after he attacked her.
When 11-year-old Grace Karaffa was told she couldn’t use ChapStick at her Virginia elementary school, the girl — who’d been prohibited from using it for years to treat her dry, bleeding lips — decided she’d had enough. The fifth-grader at Stuarts Draft Elementary School created a petition and presented her case before the Augusta County school board last week, arguing that a ban on the most commonly used remedy to treat chapped lips was “inappropriate,” her father said.
A Republican governor and Republican Legislature spends tax dollars like there’s no tomorrow…forgetting it was just yesterday that promises to cut taxes and cut spending is, in part, what propelled them into office. Nutso.
“One of the saddest aspects of contemporary journalism–I worked on great newspapers for 38 years–is that almost no one on staff knows a single fact about things that go bang in the night. Some can’t tell an earplug from a rubber bullet or a semi-automatic from a full-automatic. Thus reportage on shooting incidents is always woefully flawed by ignorance and the public is ill-served, as in this (Ferguson) disgraceful case.” ~ Stephen Hunter, novelist and firearms expert