A Newsweek article about Barack Obama addresses, for the umpteenth time, his effort to appeal to voters based on religion. While this is nothing new — it’s a much-older tradition among the GOP, of course, but Democratic candidates have been doing it for over a year now — the article mentions one of his staffers and his job in the campaign:

[Joshua] DuBois, who is 25, now has the lofty title of national director of religious affairs for the Obama campaign. Real-world translation: he works 20-hour days trying to persuade priests, pastors, rabbis and clerics to endorse his boss — and, more important, to spread the word to their flocks.

Hmm. I had thought that clergy engaging in politics — including endorsement of candidates — was forbidden by the IRS, if they wish to maintain their organization’s tax-exempt status?

Anyone interested in the legality of this sort of thing can check out this Pew Forum report.

It appears, indeed, to be quite forbidden! Why, then, would the Obama campaign — or that of any other candidate — hire staff specifically to cajole clergy into breaking the law?

One might further ask why the IRS has not acted on this? They have occasionally gone after non-profit organizations, religious or otherwise, for being political; but it appears the campaigns are encouraging violation of the IRS rules on a much larger scale than the 2 or 3 groups the IRS goes after annually.

Can it be that politicking by religious groups is actually more acceptable to the IRS than that agency would have us believe?

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