BUSH’S WAR ON FAITH, PART 2….For more on All Saints, the church that’s being targeted by the Bush IRS, go to the church’s website, where you can read the sermon that supposedly prompted the IRS action, and all of the documentation involved in the investigation.

There is no blanket ban on political speech in houses of worship. Instead, there are a number of rules that regulate what kind of political activity and speech is appropriate for a church or other institution that wishes to maintain tax-exempt status. For instance, houses of worship–and religious leaders of those institutions–cannot endorse political candidates or parties, nor can they coordinate with political campaigns. Churches that violate this rule can and should be investigated. But this sermon was not in the same league as the various conservative politicking efforts I outlined earlier and shouldn’t fall in the category of prohibited speech. For a useful Q&A on restrictions houses of worship face for their political activity, check out this guide.

From what I can tell, IRS Commissioner Mark Everson–though certainly a Republican–does not appear to be a hack. I highly doubt this was something he decided to pursue all on his own. There’s a story to be uncovered about where the directive for this investigation originated and who issued it. Could be a juicy story for one of our friends in the daily or weekly news biz.

Note: My earlier explanation of the difference between acceptable and prohibited kinds of political speech by religious organizations was utterly confusing and unhelpful, so I’ve rewritten it.

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Amy Sullivan

Amy Sullivan is a Chicago-based journalist who has written about religion, politics, and culture as a senior editor for Time, National Journal, and Yahoo. She was an editor at the Washington Monthly from 2004 to 2006.