ND Expert: Pastors' IRS challenge supported by religious freedom statute, not constitution

by Michael O. Garvey


Some 35 pastors nationwide this week defied federal tax regulations prohibiting churches, religious groups, and non-profit groups that accept tax deductions from endorsing political candidates.

Pulpit Freedom Sunday,organized by a group of conservative Christian lawyers called The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), encouraged pastors to preach sermons on the moral qualifications of candidates for public office and to mail copies of their sermons to the Internal Revenue Service.ADF hopes to provoke a Supreme Court test of the regulations, which it believes violate the Constitutions First Amendment.

Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, associate professor of law in the Notre Dame Law School, who teaches and writes widely on federal income taxation, election law, and not-for-profit organizations, has been attentive to the increasing defiance of religious liberty groups and churches.

Under current First Amendment case law,Mayer said,the pastors and their churches do not have a constitutional case.

Their only constitutional hope is to argue for an expansion of the existing church autonomy doctrine, which I believe is a logical one but is not one the courts have ever accepted,he said, adding thatthey do, however, have a case under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a statutory provision that all of the recent media reports and commentary appear to have ignored.

Mayer, who joined the Notre Dame Law School faculty in 2005, also lectures in the Universitys Mendoza College of Business on legal issues facing nonprofit organizations.His scholarship particularly concerns advocacy by nonprofit organizations, the growing intersection of election law and tax law with respect to lobbying and other political activity, and the role of nonprofits both domestically and internationally.

_ Contact: Professor Mayer at 574-631-8057 or_ " lmayer@nd.edu ":mailto:lmayer@nd.edu

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