Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wants churches to challenge the IRS, he said in a recent interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, urging religious leaders to put their tax-exempt statuses on the line with bold political speech from the pulpit.
Asked if churches should be concerned that preaching traditional marriage might conflict with their 501(c)3 status in light of recent national moves toward marriage equality, Paul suggested that religious institutions take more aggressive political stances than they currently do.
“What I would say to the churches is be bold and challenge them and say in our church we’re still going to discuss good and evil and what we think of it, and so be it if the government wants to come and challenge us because if we don’t stand up and try and protect our God-given rights they’re going to be taken from us,” Paul told CBN's David Brody.
(Video of Paul's interview above, via CBN.)
Paul also accused President Barack Obama of having used the government to attack religious groups, arguing that the Affordable Care Act's mandate that most employer health insurance plans cover employees' contraception without a copay was an affront to religious-owned businesses like Hobby Lobby. The administration finalized those rules last month, though a court of appeals has sided with Hobby Lobby, ruling that it doesn't have to pay fines for not providing contraception coverage while their claims against Obamacare are still pending.
Political speech by religious organizations has long been a controversial issue, though it most frequently emerges during election season. While free speech allows religious leaders to speak on any issue, actively promoting or opposing any particular candidate is disallowed as a condition of their tax-exempt statuses, which have saved their organizations $145 billion over 10 years.
Religious groups tested the IRS' willingness to enforce those rules last October with a nationwide event dedicated to breaking election law and endorsing largely Republican candidate. The IRS took no action, upsetting atheist groups.
While Paul is encouraging churches to challenge the IRS with their speech, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) offered a different suggestion last month, urging religious leaders to drop their tax-exempt status in order to speak more freely on political matters.