NEW YORK - Churches engaging in partisan political activity have been getting a free pass from the Internal Revenue Service for the past three years.
Russell Renwicks, a manager in the IRS Mid-Atlantic region, recently said the agency had suspended audits of churches suspected of violating federal restrictions on political activity. Churches that endorse or oppose a candidate can lose their tax-exempt status, but many pastors consider the 1954 law to be an unconstitutional violation of their rights.
Last month, more than 1,500 pastors, organized by the Alliance Defending Freedom, made political speeches from the pulpit and then sent a record of their sermon to the IRS, hoping their challenge would eventually end up in court. The Alliance has organized the annual "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" since 2008. The IRS has never contacted a pastor involved in the protest.
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