Monday, November 07, 2005

Emphatically not a time for reasonable dialogue from All Saints Pasadena

The offending priest: Rev. George Regas arrested 4 April, 2005 supporting Los Angeles Security workers.

The LA Times reports this morning that the IRS threatened All Saints Pasadena, a prominent Episcopal parish, for a sermon in 2004 by its retired rector Rev. George Regas denouncing Bush's Iraq war.

In some ways, I'm even more upset by the tack All Saints' rector J. Edwin Bacon is reported as taking in response, than by the IRS's obviously political audit. The parish got the letter threatening to pull its tax-exempt status in June 2005. Why did they wait to publicize the attack until now? Bullies need to be exposed, not humored or placated with legalistic responses.

The letter on its face aims at political repression: the IRS wrote down that All Saints was a risk because of a "searing indictment of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq" and noted that the sermon described "tax cuts as inimical to the values of Jesus." The IRS is plainly asserting that a church can be punished for opinions stated within its community -- not claiming any action or practical intervention on behalf of a candidate in an election! That is an attempt at thought control.

Fr. Bacon opines that the IRS will eventually drop this case and he is almost certainly right. But given the parish's relative wealth and standing, a lot of others need it to take a far more aggressive, prophetic, stance. More than most who might be attacked for denouncing US imperial wars, All Saints should be able to afford to speak out.

The Episcopal Church has come a very long way from its early 20th century character as "the ruling class at prayer." But we sometimes act as if just being reasonable and practicing decorum will recover an influence we've given away, choosing instead for the poor and the marginalized with whom Jesus associated. Having taken that hard path, any influence the ECUSA may have for good in this society, for the poor and suffering, comes when we push boundaries, following the example of the Founder. And he didn't negotiate politely with the authorities.

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