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IRS targets church for peace sermon

By Nicole Colson | November 18, 2005 | Page 2

THE INTERNAL Revenue Service (IRS) has warned a California church that it could lose its tax-exempt status. Why? Because of an antiwar sermon that took place two days before last year's presidential election.

At the sermon, Rev. George Regas of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena--one of the state's largest and most progressive churches--imagined Jesus participating in a political debate with then-candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry. Regas didn't tell parishioners who to vote for, but he did criticize the war--and imagined Jesus telling Bush, "Mr. President, your doctrine of pre-emptive war is a failed doctrine."

Later in the sermon, Regas said he thought Jesus would chastise both Bush and Kerry for supporting the war. But that wasn't enough to protect the church from the IRS. In June, the agency sent a letter threatening to revoke the church's tax-exempt status for "intervening" in a political campaign or election.

The church has vowed to fight. "In a government that leans so heavily on religious values, that they would pull a stunt like this, it makes me heartsick," Anne Thompson, who goes to All Saints, told the Los Angeles Times.

Several other churches critical of administration policies have faced similar IRS investigations during Bush's time in office. But there's no similar record of the Feds targeting right-wing churches.

Like the 11,000-member evangelical New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., for example, where right-wingers are regularly invited to speak. Right-wing pundit Dinesh D'Souza--known for his bigoted views on race, gender and sexuality--recently visited New Life to discuss why the war in Iraq was a righteous cause. The church also regularly promotes books by right-wingers like Newt Gingrich.

But the IRS doesn't seem to be interested in investigating churches that support the war.

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