Last Sunday, helping commemorate the upcoming Martin Luther King holiday, Obama Administration senior advisor Valerie Jarrett took part in a service held at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. From the pulpit of Dr. King’s former church, Jarrett made a blatantly partisan pitch that puts the historic congregation at risk of IRS retaliation.
According to experts in tax law, Jarrett’s overt criticism of Republicans may have violated IRS rules that bar churches from engaging in partisan activism. Eric Stanley, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund (a critic of such laws), told the Daily Caller: “It is problematic under current regulations.”
During her remarks, Jarrett warned that “[t]eachers and firefighters and policemen… are… in jeopardy because… of Republicans in Congress.” Along with Jarrett, Ebeneezer senior pastor Raphael Warnock similarly singled out a Republican challenger of the President for criticism. And, to top it all off, there was a voter registration table available in the building — something that one media report indicated is often paired with church services.
Internal Revenue Service code currently prohibits tax-exempt religious institutions from participating in “voter education or registration activities” that could “favor one candidate over another,” “oppose a candidate” or “favoring a candidate or group of candidates.”
Project 21 spokeswoman Stacy Washington doesn’t support Jarrett’s assertions, but she does think Jarrett should have the freedom to make them from Ebeneezer’s pulpit without risking the tax status of that famous and historic church at risk. Another thing that bothers Stacy is that there appears to be little concern over what Jarrett did — with Stacy believing the outcry would be deafening if it was a conservative involved in a partisan pitch from a pulpit
Stacy challenges the IRS code as unconstitutional but is similarly critical of the apparent lack of concern over the potential infraction, saying:
A woeful display of hypocrisy presented itself in the welcome reception that was given to Valerie Jarrett last weekend while she chastised Republicans from the pulpit of the Ebeneezer Baptist Church.
The issue to me isn’t that she talked politics in church, since that is what our nation’s founders did on a regular basis. I believe the actual issue hinges on the double-standard of liberals constantly complaining about and reporting evangelical churchgoers to the IRS for speaking out on homosexual marriage and other conservative topics that critics claim are partisan while they are just as guilty — perhaps even more.
There is an end game here, and I’ll call it like it is. There is no constitutionally-mandated restriction on speaking out on any subject from the pulpits of churches in America. The IRS has powers it is not constitutionally charged to wield. Regulations that have regularly silenced church leaders are ludicrous and should be repealed immediately.
Instead of calling for another improper display of tyranny, liberals should accept that any church is free to preach whatever they please from the pulpit touching on any and all topics as the Bible touches every area of a person of faith’s life.
We should no longer sit idly by and accept censorship of our free speech based on the venue in which it is presented.