You can't have your cake and eat it, too—or, in the case of the "rogue" pastors described by Politico, you can't endorse political candidates and still get sweet tax breaks. Although the ministers assert it's within their First Amendment rights to preach their political preferences, it's a violation of an IRS law that prohibits tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations from supporting candidates. But the IRS doesn't seem to be moving against the pastors, and the clergy are growing more confident. "If by chance a member of the IRS gets [my] sermon and is listening, sue me," a San Diego pastor tells Politico. An increasing number of pastors have been offering endorsements during Pulpit Freedom Sunday, an event designed by the Pulpit Initiative to fight for free speech for pastors.
The Christian Post reports that what started out as a 33-pastor-strong event in 2008 grew to 1,517 who preached political sermons this year. The pastors seem to want the IRS to sue them so they can bring their case to the Supreme Court, with some recording their sermons and mailing the footage to the IRS. But for now, the agency doesn't seem to be adjusting its approach, even though it was sued by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 2012 for turning a blind eye and settled. In an interview with Tax Analysts last month, the IRS commissioner said "we are continuing to review churches in the way we have in the last several years" and any impression that "somehow we are doing something very different and are going to show up ... more aggressively or more often in a different way … that is not what that [FFRF] case was about at all."