Via Steve Benen, All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena has been cleared
of preach-crime
by the IRS.

"The Internal Revenue Service has told a prominent Pasadena church that it has ended its lengthy investigation into a 2004 antiwar sermon, church leaders said Sunday.

But the agency wrote in its letter to All Saints Episcopal Church that officials still considered the sermon to have been illegal, prompting the church to seek clarification, a corrected record and an apology from the IRS, the church's rector told standing-room-only crowds of parishioners at Sunday's services.

The church also has asked the Treasury Department, which oversees the IRS, to investigate allegations that officials from the Justice Department had become involved in the matter, raising concerns that the investigation was politically motivated."

Politically motivated? As if the Bush administration would actually use the Department of the Treasury as a weapon against political opponents... that's what the Justice Department's for!


"From the outset, the IRS seemed to deal with All Saints in an unusual way. For example, when a ministry is suspected of intervening in a political campaign, ordinarily the first step is a warning letter from the IRS. In this case, the agency skipped that step and went right to a threatening letter, stating that "a reasonable belief exists that you may not be tax-exempt as a church."

Moreover, usually a house of worship is reminded of legal limits, the institution promises to play nice, and unless there's a pattern of repeated abuse, the matter is final. The IRS seems to have taken a far more aggressive position towards All Saints Episcopal. The church provided the IRS with a copy of all literature given out before the election; the IRS said it wasn't satisfied. The church said it never endorses candidates; the IRS told church officials to either admit wrongdoing or face more intense scrutiny.

For that matter, there were multiple examples from the same election cycle of similar comments from conservative pastors in the South, some of which are arguably far more partisan than the All Saints example, but which did not prompt similar investigations."

Read the whole thing.

--Matthew Duss