You might remember this story from early last month (courtesy Reuters):
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The Internal Revenue Service has threatened to revoke the tax-exempt status of a Los Angeles Episcopal church because a priest implied to parishioners before the 2004 presidential election that Jesus would not have voted for George W. Bush.
Officials at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena said on Monday they would fight the IRS action, which is based on regulations forbidding churches from taking sides in political campaigns if they want to retain their tax-exempt status.
In a sermon on Oct 31, 2004 titled “What if Jesus were to debate John Kerry and George Bush?” a retired rector, Rev. George Regas, condemned the war in Iraq and suggested that the president did not share the church’s peace-loving values.
When word of the sermon reached the ears of the IRS, they decided to investigate the church to determine if their tax-exempt status should be yanked.
In the midst of the discussion, I decided to send emails to both my Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, about this situation; I was concerned as an American and as an Episcopalian.
I have yet to hear from Feinstein yet, but here’s the response from Boxer’s office:
Thank you for contacting my office to express your views on the IRS’s investigation of the All Saints Church in Pasadena. Last year, a guest minister delivered a sermon at this church that criticized the war in Iraq and the Bush Administration’s policies. He explicitly stated that he was not telling the parishioners how to vote or endorsing a specific candidate. However, the IRS decided to investigate whether the church violated its tax-exempt status by interfering in an election. All Saints Church, which has a long history of opposing war, is now fighting the IRS audit as an attack on its First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. I have always fought to protect these rights and freedoms, and I believe they are vitally important to our nation. Rest assured, I will continue to monitor this situation closely.
I believe that all citizens should become involved in the legislative process by letting their voices be heard, and I appreciate the time and effort that you took to share your thoughts with me. One of the most important aspects of my job is keeping informed about the views of my constituents, and I welcome your comments so that I may continue to represent California to the best of my ability. Should I have the opportunity to consider legislation on this or similar issues, I will keep your views in mind.
For additional information about my activities in the U.S. Senate, please visit my website, http://boxer.senate.gov. From this site, you can access statements and press releases that I have issued about current events and pending legislation, request copies of legislation and government reports, and receive detailed information about the many services that I am privileged to provide for my constituents. You may also wish to visit http://thomas.loc.gov to track current and past legislation.
Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me. I appreciate hearing from you.
United States Senator
Please visit my website at http://boxer.senate.gov
Seems a bit classier than a form email — and at least she or her staff does take the time to respond to emails. I’m still trying to monitor the situation with All Saints’ Pasadena, and will post any updates found.