IRS vs. Pulpit

The nonprofit status of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, is being challenged by the Internal Revenue Service because of a sermon in which parishioners were asked to imagine a debate among Jesus, President George Bush, and Sen. John Kerry. In an October 2004 sermon, George Regas, retired rector of the church, envisioned Jesus critiquing the war in Iraq and domestic poverty, said Whitney Mannies, who has attended All Saints since 2003. The sermon preached the gospel message, Mannies told Sojourners, “which is more far-reaching than American 21st century party politics.”

While the IRS interpreted the sermon as an illegal “intervention” in the 2004 presidential election, the church sees it as a matter of freedom of religion and speech, current rector Edwin Bacon said in a statement. Bacon said the church was following its “theologically based commitment to alleviate poverty and promote peace, equality, and social justice.” The IRS first contacted the church in June 2005 to express its concerns and in October informed the church that it was being investigated. If found guilty, the church could have its nonprofit status revoked.

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