While an American pastor is the subject of federal investigations for delivering a pro-George Bush sermon on July 4, Christian churches in Canada are now facing the loss of their tax-exempt status should they become involved in partisan politics.
The Canada Customs and Revenue Agency has met with legal representatives of both the Catholic Church and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada to warn them of the action in connection with this year’s campaign.
According to LifeSiteNews, churches are not only admonished against recommending certain candidates or political parties, but they also face crackdowns for speaking out on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.
“The best thing for a charity to do, especially during an election, is to stay away from those issues,” Dawna Lynn Labont?, a spokeswoman for the minister of national revenue, told the news agency. “There are certain issues, especially during election times, that are very political.”
The gag order on religions is said to cover all moral issues, even poverty.
“Taking out a full page ad before Christmas on homelessness might not be considered political, but doing the same thing the week of an election might be considered political,” Labont? said.
The policy is being blasted the group Concerned Christians Canada which says the government is subverting democracy, abrogating basic religious freedom and attacking the nation’s Christians.
“For 30 years, the Liberal Party has waged undeclared cultural war against evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics in Canada; this CCRA action is an official declaration,” said the group’s chairman David Krayden. “Christians and persons of all religious faiths need to know that this Liberal government is working to undermine free speech and compromise freedom of religion. Concerned Christians Canada will ensure that Christians know who their political enemies are in time for the next election.”
In April, Canada approved a law some say makes the Bible itself “hate speech,” as critics claim it will criminalize public expression against homosexual behavior.
As WorldNetDaily previously reported, the issue of churches having their tax-exempt status threatened is also hitting home in the U.S.
At least two organizations are monitoring the content of Sunday sermons by American pastors and threatening to report churches to the Internal Revenue Service if they hear political messages they deem inappropriate under federal guidelines on tax-exempt status.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, headed by Barry Lynn, filed a complaint with the IRS against Ronnie Floyd, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Springdale, Ark., accusing him of preaching a sermon promoting President Bush’s re-election July 4.
The complaint challenges the church’s tax-exempt status as a religious organization.
The local Democratic Party is supporting the IRS probe, saying the sermon should be “investigated thoroughly.”
According to a statement by the Democratic committee, the party, “looks forward to the day when all citizens may vote their conscience without their political beliefs being dictated to them by politically involved religious leaders, regardless of denomination.”
“American democracy is rooted in the principle of the separation of church and state,” the statement continued. “The Washington County Democratic Party remains committed to maintaining this value and belief if only in our small corner of the state.”
Associate Pastor Alan Damron of First Baptist replied in a prepared statement: “Contrary to the statement by the Washington County Democratic Party, ‘separation of church and state’ is not in the United States Constitution. Our Constitution guarantees the right for all to speak on political, social, moral, and biblical issues. The Constitution includes pastors and churches. There have been American religious leaders past and present who did not and have not withheld their opinions about social issues or moral issues and/or politicians who supported or opposed various American rights. If the pastors or churches are not protected by the First Amendment, then neither are professors, or non-profit, tax-exempt educational institutions. The July 4th sermon of Pastor Ronnie Floyd exemplifies the best of our American tradition of freedom and democracy. The message did not violate any IRS provision by any stretch of the imagination, and is most assuredly protected by the First Amendment, that protects us all, even those who may disagree with us.”
The church itself issued a statement: “The alleged letter of complaint to the Internal Revenue Service from Mr. Barry Lynn of the ‘Americans United for the Separation of Church and State’ is nothing more than a threat to pastors and our churches in America, attempting to intimidate the church into silence. This threat ‘to take away our tax-exempt status’ based on a July 4 presentation has no credence at all. Pastor Floyd did not violate any laws, nor did he or the church endorse a particular candidate. An attorney who specializes in First Amendment issues and political activity of non-profit organizations has viewed the message presented on July 4 and calls Mr. Lynn’s accusations unfounded. Mr. Lynn attempts to intimidate pastors and churches by baseless allegations during every election cycle.”
The statement pointed out that the Internal Revenue Service has not taken away the tax-exempt status from any church in the history of our nation for political reasons.
“It appears that some people have two rule books, one for liberal, and one for conservative politics,” the statement continued.” The fact is that history does not support the baseless threats hurled against conservative churches. Since 1934, when the lobbying restriction was added to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), not one church has ever lost its tax-exempt status.”