Pastors across the country live in fear that the IRS will come knocking, and that fear is growing as candidates prepare to announce their 2016 presidential candidacies.
Pastors navigating vague IRS laws that legislators have been lax in reforming are now worried that exercising their First Amendment rights will cost them their tax exempt status. They are worried that any political comments, even by a guest pastor, could cost them their church, and experts say there is little hope of reform before the next election.
These vague tax laws, that lawyers say even they don’t fully understand, have led to fearful citizens and selective enforcement which directly hinders free speech, according to a bipartisan panel of tax experts in Washington D.C. on Thursday.
Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, works with churches across the country on how to avoid violating tax laws. He said that fear of the IRS prevents many pastors from speaking their minds on political issues.
The IRS recently said that it currently has 99 churches under high priority investigation, Stanley said.
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