Ted Olsen in a posting today to the Christianity Today weblog provides a detailed fisking of Los Angeles Times coverage of an IRS investigation of the Rev. George Regas, a liberal Episcopalian priest. Regas, the former rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, delivered a sermon which was sharply critical of President Bush the Sunday before election day, October 31, 2004.
Olsen finds it remarkable that the Times found this particular IRS investigation worthy of coverage, given the flood of complaints filed from both sides of the political spectrum from election season 2004:
But remember that tattletaling to Uncle Sam was a bit of a popular meme back in November. You had Americans United for Separation of Church and State trumpeting its complaints to the IRS over Ronnie Floyd's First Baptist Church of Springdale, Arkansas, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs, and others. The Mainstream Coalition was making headlines for sending spies into conservative suburban Kansas City churches, and groups like Rat Out a Church sprung up either to parody the efforts or to counter them with IRS complaints from the Right.
In other words, the IRS got slammed with untold scores of complaints about inappropriate endorsements from pulpits.
Olsen ultimately concludes that in the end various political actors, conservative and liberal, get something out of the attention from the LA Times story, including the Times itself which "get[s] to splash this on their pages and sell copies to outraged readers on the Left and the Right."
Given the bent of the LA Times, I'd venture that the audience the editors were going for was the Left, although right-of-center evangelical Christians are also annoyed at potential IRS gagging of church pulpits come election season.