The L.A. Times this morning revives the fable of “The Church that Might Lose Its Tax-Exempt Status Because of An Antiwar Sermon.” The article is titled Pasadena Church May Fight IRS Summons, and bears a deck headline that misleadingly states: “All Saints’ rector seeks legal and lay opinion on response to probe over an antiwar sermon.”
As that headline suggests, the editors try to make it sound as though the church’s tax-exempt status is being questioned simply because of a little old antiwar sermon:
All Saints came under IRS scrutiny shortly after Regas, the church’s former rector, delivered a sermon that depicted Jesus in a mock debate with then-presidential candidates George W. Bush and John F. Kerry. The sermon did not endorse either candidate.
Regas’ suggestion that Jesus would have told Bush his preemptive war strategy in Iraq “has led to disaster” prompted a letter from the IRS in June 2005 stating that “a reasonable belief exists that you may not be a tax-exempt church.”
Horse hockey. There was much more to the sermon than a little antiwar sentiment — and the L.A. Times knows it.
As I laid out in great detail in this post from November of last year, the rector made a number of anti-Bush points in his sermon:
- Jesus hates war.
- Jesus specifically hates the Iraq war. He thinks it is terrorism, and that Bush does not care about Iraqi children the way he cares about Americans.
- Jesus dislikes tax cuts.
- Jesus does not like Bush’s nuclear weapons policies.
- Jesus wants women to be able to abort their children if they want to. (I’m putting two and two together here; the rector said: ‘’The religious right has drowned out everyone else. Now the faith of Jesus has come to be known as pro-rich, pro-war and pro-American…. I’m not pro-abortion, but pro-choice. There is something vicious and violent about coercing a woman to carry to term an unwanted child.” Since Jesus is not “vicious and violent,” I take it that Jesus is pro-choice.)
How do I know all this? I read it in the L.A. Times last November. Granted, I had to read the November story all the way to Page A14, as the pertinent details were buried on the back pages. But they were there, and they were damning.
In my earlier post, I summed up the rector’s conclusion in this way:
I’m not saying to vote for John Kerry. I’m just saying that the Iraq war, tax cuts, abortion restrictions, and nuclear testing make baby Jesus cry. If you want baby Jesus to cry, then by all means vote for whichever candidate supports these anti-Jesus policies. But if you are asking “What Would Jesus Do?” — well, He would pull the lever for the peacemaker. As between Kerry and Bush, I can’t tell you who that is — but I can say this: it sure as Hell ain’t Bush.
Asked after the election whether he regretted the sermon, the rector said: “No regrets. I only wish I had preached it with greater intensity.” See, because Bush won . . . and the whole point was to get Kerry elected.
But today the paper makes the offending sermon sound like a nice nonpartisan imaginary debate that happened to have an antiwar component. And isn’t it natural for a man of God to be antiwar? When in fact, the rector was pounding the lectern for John Kerry, even as the church demanded tax-exempt status.
At least the previous article contained the facts; they were just buried on the back pages. Today, the relevant facts have disappeared. The editors apparently figure our memories are short, and they can snow us.
I’m here to try to prevent that. And the few hundred of you who read this post will learn the true facts — leaving only the tens or hundreds of thousands who read the story in today’s L.A. Times without reading my blog, and who will consequently be misled by the bias and distortion in this article.