ICC Note: On August 1, 2014, a Wisconsin judge dismissed a case that attempted to use the IRS in order to censor religious sermons that contain political messages. The atheist organization, Freedom from Religion Foundation, originally filed the lawsuit but later dropped it on their own accord after the Becket Fund decided to represent the small church under legal attack. When FFRF realized that their lawsuit, which intended for the IRS to crackdown on religious speech restrictions, allowed for churches to fight back and defend their rights, they quickly dropped the suit.
By Mike Rudin
08/1/2014 United States (Charisma News) – On Friday a federal judge in Wisconsin dismissed the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s (FFRF) attempt to use the Internal Revenue Service as a weapon to censor houses of worship that preach on moral issues having political implications.
After almost two years of litigation, FFRF asked the court to dismiss its own lawsuit once the Becket Fund stepped in to defend the rights of a small Wisconsin church and its pastor. FFRF had relied on the so-called Johnson Amendment, a law that politicians use to restrict what some private groups can say about them, and which—by an accident of history—caught houses of worship in its web when it was passed 60 years ago.
“This lawsuit was a bad idea from the beginning. Who thinks the IRS should be deciding what a preacher says in a sermon?” said Daniel Blomberg, legal counsel for the Becket Fund.
“Fortunately for the First Amendment, once FFRF encountered an actual opponent they—as Monty Python might say—gallantly chickened out. Today’s win shuts down FFRF’s first-of-its-kind attempt to make the tax man into a sermon-censorship board. Whatever people think about religion or politics, we all can agree that deciding what clergy say to their congregations should be a private religious decision, not one for bureaucrats or militant atheists.”
FFRF filed the lawsuit in an attempt to force the IRS to enforce the ban, something the IRS has for decades been reluctant to do. The Becket Fund successfully intervened in the suit on behalf of Milwaukee-based Holy Cross Anglican Church and its vicar, Father Patrick Malone, a Benedictine abbot. The church argued that FFRF’s suit must fail because enforcing the Johnson Amendment against its internal religious speech would violate federal constitutional and statutory law.