The IRS as political enforcer

The IRS threatens the tax exemption of a liberal-leaning church in response to a single sermon that took an anti-war stance but endorsed no candidate.

After two elections in a ow in which the White House and the GOP openly used fundamentalist churches to help mobilize their base, the IRS is now threatening the tax exemption of a liberal-leaning Episcopal congregation in response to a single sermon that made an anti-war argument but no explicit, or strongly implicit, partisan endorsement.

If you believe that this is merely bureaucratic fumbling, I’ll tell you another. Here’s the thought-experiment: If the IRS had tried this against a right-wing church, how long would it have taken for the White House to tell it to back off?

This action is likely to offend even churches sympathetic to the GOP; the more discussion of it, the better. The current ruling cabal’s contempt for all limits served it well through the 2004 campaign, but I think I see a 1974-level backlash developing.

Update The evangelicals weigh in, on the good-guy side of the issue. Let’s make nice to them.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: