Maine churches threatened with IRS complaints for supporting marriage

Question 1 opponents encourage frivolous attempts to revoke tax-exempt status; ADF standing ready with free legal assistance
Thursday, November 12, 2009

LEAWOOD, Kan. — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund are offering free legal assistance to Maine churches that become the targets of Internal Revenue Service complaints in the wake of Question 1.  Question 1 opponents are actively encouraging their followers to report churches to the IRS in the wake of their unsuccessful effort to block voter approval of the measure, which restored the legal definition of marriage in the state to one man and one woman.

“Pastors and churches have a right to speak about biblical truths from the pulpit without fear of punishment. They can encourage their congregations to take a stand for marriage and can directly support legislative issues like Question 1 without running afoul of IRS rules,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “Groups that want to redefine marriage are intentionally threatening the tax-exempt status of churches through fear, intimidation, and disinformation to silence their voice. ADF will stand with these churches to defend their right to free speech and religious expression against these baseless scare tactics.”

On Nov. 3, Maine voters went to the polls to express their opinion on the state’s law that fabricated same-sex “marriage” earlier this year. By a margin of 53-47%, voters rejected the law and restored marriages between one man and one woman as the only unions recognized by the state. Since the vote, Question 1 opponents, disappointed with the outcome, have been encouraging retaliation through the filing of IRS complaints against churches that indicated they supported a yes vote on Question 1. The complaints are designed to threaten the tax-exempt status of the churches, even though such support is almost always allowable by the IRS.

“This is an all-too-obvious attempt to use the IRS to intimidate pastors and churches as a means of punishment and to get them to be quiet,” said Stanley. “We encourage the churches of Maine not to be intimidated and to contact us if they are contacted by the IRS.”

Stanley heads the ADF Pulpit Initiative, a legal effort to challenge IRS regulations that restrict the free speech of pastors.  In 2009, eighty-three pastors participated in the second annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday, an event associated with the Pulpit Initiative.

ADF attorneys are also defending Donald Mendell, a Maine high school counselor whose professional license has been threatened because of his public support of marriage.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.