Churches should consider giving up their tax-exempt status if keeping it means allowing the government to tell them what to say, says Mike Huckabee.
The former Arkansas governor, GOP presidential candidate, and current Fox News talk show host also is an ordained Baptist minister. He made the comment on Monday during a minister's conference in Houston, Texas, ahead of the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting.
"Keep your deductions. Keep the exemptions. We stand more faithful with what God would have us to say, and we choose our freedom more than our financial benefit," Huckabee said, according to Associated Baptist Press
Recent revelations that the Internal Revenue Service has been targeting groups that are conservative and pro-Israel should be an alert to people of faith, Huckabee said. The Thomas More Society has complained that IRS officials asked anti-abortion groups in Texas and Iowa about the content of their prayers
when the groups sought tax-exempt status.
"You may not clap real loud for this, but at least hear me out and think about it and pray about it," Huckabee told the pastors. "I think we need to recognize that it may be time to quit worrying so much about the tax code and start thinking more about the truth of the living God."
If that means giving up tax-exempt status and tax deductions for charitable contributions, Huckabee said he chooses freedom to say whatever he wants.
"I have never given a dime to God that I gave solely because it was a tax decision," Huckabee said. "And if you've got people in your church who are giving because it's a tax decision, then they ought to keep their money. They need it more than God does."
Huckabee reiterated the sentiment with two tweets
"Christians give out of love for God; not 4 tax benefits. If we lose a deduction,we gain more freedom to spk without govt threatening us," one of them read.
But it's not just the federal government who wants to tell Christian groups what to say, Huckabee said.
"Of late, the Republican Party has tried to tell those of us who are evangelicals that maybe we need to dial it back a little bit when it comes to issues like the sanctity of life and the holiness of marriage and maybe just ease off."
Saying he had a "news flash" for the GOP, Huckabee told the pastors, "I plan to take my last ride in life on a white horse, not on an elephant and not on a donkey, and I will stick with the word of God, and if the party, any party, goes a different way, I stick with Jesus. I believe he is forever."
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