The Parade of Privilege: How Government Favors Religion (Privilege #3: A Blind Eye to Scofflaws)

Luis Granados, director of the AHA’s publishing house, Humanist Press, responds to the Catholic bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom, a 14-day campaign which, according to the Washington Post, “purports to champion religious freedom, but in actuality distorts it by promoting the use of religion as a license to discriminate.”

Religious Privilege #3: A Blind Eye to Scofflaws

“In the face of an unjust law,” the bishops wrote when first announcing the current Fortnight for Freedom campaign, “an accommodation is not to be sought, especially by resorting to equivocal words and deceptive practices. If we face today the prospect of unjust laws, then Catholics in America, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, must have the courage not to obey them.”

Religiously motivated defiance of the law is already here – and the government isn’t lifting a finger to stop it.

The tax code for the last half century has wisely limited the income tax exemption for churches to ones that refrain from endorsing or opposing political candidates or parties from the pulpit.

Hundreds of professional God experts (in fairness to the bishops, most of them Protestant) have decided they are above this law, and aren’t going to obey it anymore. They are deliberately and brazenly endorsing candidates from the pulpit, and daring the IRS to do something about it. The IRS response, in the current administration, is to turn tail and run. Enforcement of this rule has been completely shut down.

If you or I were to defy the IRS and not pay all or part of our taxes, say because we had a moral objection to government funding of churches through the “Faith-Based Initiative,” IRS would start seizing our assets in a heartbeat. The difference is, you and I are part of the one-third of Americans who are not religious. God experts get to obey the laws they like, and skip the ones they don’t.

If a preacher wants to endorse a candidate from the pulpit, that’s fine – it’s a free country. If he then continues to claim a tax benefit to which he’s no longer entitled, though, that’s not fine – it’s contempt for the rule of law. The cowardice of the IRS in letting these scofflaws off the hook is a disgrace.

Visit the American Humanist Association’s Facebook page every day beginning June 26 where we counter the Catholic bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom by posting a special privilege experienced only by churches in the United States.