A large, liberal Episcopal church in southern California is close to deciding that it will resist an inquiry by the Internal Revenue Service regarding political activity, possibly forcing a court test on First Amendment rights. The IRS has asked All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena to provide extensive answers to questions about an antiwar, preelection sermon in 2004,
“Freedom of speech and freedom of religion have been assaulted by this act of the IRS, and I think my people want to be heard in court,” said Ed Bacon, rector of All Saints, to a packed church on September 17.
After his sermon at the largest of three services, Bacon received “a three-minute standing ovation from 1,100 people that would have gone longer had the organist not started playing,” said Keith Holeman, director of communications at All Saints. The parish vestry and the church’s attorneys have backed a fight from the start.