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Photo: Flickr/John Morton - Creative Commons

The fact that the IRS has a checkered history of enforcing the Johnson Amendment should not come as a surprise to anyone. Over the years, the IRS has seemed to give favored churches and groups a pass on the Johnson Amendment while cracking down on others. The IRS has also issued regulations enforcing the Johnson Amendment that are unclear and unhelpful to pastors seeking to understand what the law prohibits. Attorneys argue over what churches and pastors can and cannot do when it comes to elections. How are pastors supposed to know with clarity what they are allowed to do?

The latest chapter in the sad saga of the IRS’ enforcement of the Johnson Amendment comes as the result of an atheist lawsuit against the IRS. The lawsuit stems from a 2008 federal court ruling that struck down the IRS’ policies for how it audits churches because they did not comply with the Church Audit Procedures Act passed by Congress in 1984. That law was intended to protect churches from politically-motivated audits by requiring a high level IRS official to approve all church audits. In response to the Judge’s 2008 decision, the IRS appeared to stop auditing churches altogether. FULL POST