US Christians Tax Each Other

It’s always nice to see Christians visiting each other’s churches. This kind of ecumenism provides a chance for Christians to get to learn about other Christian traditions and perspectives, and to, er…report each other to the IRS.

Liberal Christians started it last month, as the Kansas City Star reported:

the Mainstream Coalition, whose members include moderates from the political and religious fields, will send undercover volunteers to worship services this month.

Conservative Christians, however, were not happy about this unexpected chance to evangelise their errant liberal brethren:

A group of pastors Thursday lashed out at the Mainstream Coalition over its plan to monitor Johnson County church services for potentially improper political activity.

“We are alarmed at such scare tactics,” the group, called Ad Hoc Pastors for Biblical Values, said in a written statement. “These are the methods of coercive rulers. There is no place for this type of intimidation by ‘secret police’ in our land.”

But now, following Jesus’ famous advice to do unto others as they have done unto you, conservative Christians in Virginia are returning the compliment, as the Fredricksburg Free Lance-Star explains:

[The Religious Freedom Action Coalition] has created Big Brother Church Watch, a group that targets so-called “liberal churches” such as the Metropolitan Community Churches, Unitarian Universalist Fellowships and African Methodist Episcopal churches.

If they find any indications of endorsement or objection to a political candidate, the group has said it will report that church to the IRS, which could revoke its tax-exempt status.

The church watchdog group was created several weeks ago in response to a IRS complaint filed last month by the Americans United for Separation of Church and State against the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

The Religious Freedom Action Coalition (founded by Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s evangelist son William J Murray) actually opposes the restrictions on tax-exempt speech, but according to its site (which features a picture of an evil-looking rat behind a pulpit endorsing John Kerry):

Our immediate purpose is to fight back against vicious left-wing attempts to silence conservative, Bible believing pastors. Every election year, liberal groups have a field day intimidating and harassing conservative pastors into silence, while liberal pastors bring in their favorite politicians and shamelessly campaign for them with impunity. This unequal treatment needs to stop!

There’s even a handy form for informers, under the banner “Ending Radical Left-Wing Politics in the Pulpit”. Although of course they don’t really mean that, since in fact they are supposedly against “government interference” in any church.

This site provides some interesting background to the IRS regulations, which date from only 1954.