HICKS COLUMN: In GOP we trust? Legacy church takes a stand
So the Legacy Church in West Ashley is on a crusade.
On Sunday, Legacy pastor the Rev. Kevin Baird endorsed Mitt Romney in his sermon and dared the Internal Revenue Service to revoke his church's tax-exempt status.
“The IRS is not going to be the sermon content manager for this pulpit,” Baird told his congregation.
But apparently it's OK for a certain grand old party to offer suggestions.
This is an organized, nationwide effort that claims to be about protecting religious freedom. But really it's about churches promoting Republican candidates under the guise of constitutional rights.
It's no coincidence that “Freedom Sunday” comes a few weeks before the election.
Truth is, there is no constitutional crisis here — that's mixing apples and serpents.
Churches do have a constitutional right to free speech. But there is no constitutional right to tax-exempt status.
Next thing you know, somebody will claim Christmas is under attack.
Do unto others ...
As the Bible shows us, there is nothing new under the sun.
Churches have been a gathering place to discuss the issues facing society for centuries. Unfortunately, nearly everything today is political.
But Michael Wright, rector at Grace Episcopal Church downtown, says the IRS law has never been an issue.
“It's always been the tradition to speak to issues and not partisan politics,” Wright says. “I've never felt there are restrictions. I'm free to speak of all issues, and politics is just part of society.”
In fact, Wright says, he feels that avoiding partisan politics is more freeing. If a church endorses a candidate, what do they do when that candidate takes a position that is in direct opposition to their beliefs?
Hey, they're politicians. All of them are going to do something that's not real church-y.
Baird cited Obama's support for legalized abortion as reason enough to oppose the president, which is fair. But how about Romney, who clearly believes the meek — aka the 47 percent — are too dependent on food stamps to inherit the Earth?
Oh, the theological quandary.
A gamble of faith
For a long time, churches of all stripes have done a little too much politicking, ignoring the laws governing their precious tax-exempt status.
Black churches have been just as guilty as white churches, and most of the time people look the other way.
That's why this is a divine bit of baloney. These churches have faith that the IRS doesn't have the time, staff or political will to audit every church that crosses the line into candidate advocacy.
Which is too bad. Churches get tax-exempt status for being charitable organizations. When they get into the business of endorsing a political party's candidate, they aren't men of God, they are tools of The Man.
Tax them accordingly.
It's a shame that we can't even escape partisan propaganda in a church these days, but apparently nothing is holy to some people. Because now we have people wrapping themselves in the cloth to promote a political agenda.
That ought to be a sin.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org