In the 2004 election, the Bush campaign openly used pulpits all over the country as a campaign marketing tool. From WaPo, July 1, 2004:
The Bush-Cheney reelection campaign has sent a detailed plan of action to religious volunteers across the country asking them to turn over church directories to the campaign, distribute issue guides in their churches and persuade their pastors to hold voter registration drives.
Campaign officials said the instructions are part of an accelerating effort to mobilize President Bush’s base of religious supporters. They said the suggested activities are intended to help churchgoers rally support for Bush without violating tax rules that prohibit churches from engaging in partisan activity.
"We strongly believe that our religious outreach program is well within the framework of the law," said Terry Holt, spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign.
Well, I guess something changed, because there is a different standard for churches espousing a "liberal" point of view:
The Internal Revenue Service has warned one of Southern California’s largest and most liberal churches that it is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status because of an antiwar sermon two days before the 2004 presidential election.
Rector J. Edwin Bacon of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena told many congregants during morning services Sunday that a guest sermon by the church’s former rector, the Rev. George F. Regas, on Oct. 31, 2004, had prompted a letter from the IRS.
In his sermon, Regas, who from the pulpit opposed both the Vietnam War and 1991’s Gulf War, imagined Jesus participating in a political debate with then-candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry. Regas said that "good people of profound faith" could vote for either man, and did not tell parishioners whom to support.
But he criticized the war in Iraq, saying that Jesus would have told Bush, "Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster."
On June 9, the church received a letter from the IRS stating that "a reasonable belief exists that you may not be tax-exempt as a church … " The federal tax code prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns and elections.
Isn’t that odd? The tax code prohibits churchs from intervening in a political campaign or election, yet when pro-Bush churches intervene in the middle of the 2004 presidential campaign, the IRS looks away.
Yet, when a so-called "liberal" church spoke out against the Iraq War (which isn’t a political campaign or election), the IRS jumps down their throat.