Foursquare / St Raphael Catholic Church, El Paso, TXIRS regulations are clear that all non-profit entities — of any and every possible sort — are not allowed to engage in politicking. This includes campaigning on behalf of a candidate, endorsing them, telling members whom to vote for, and so on. Among the types of non-profit entities that fall under this injunction, are religious groups — ranging from large denominational organizations, to multi-church councils, to religious universities and schools, to religious orders, to congregations, and even down to single-pastor ministries. These rules are simple and clear; there are no exceptions; there isn’t a lot of mystery about them; and anyone who applies for tax-exempt status damned well knows them.

Despite this, from time to time, some religionist with a bee in his/her political bonnet will decide to break this rule and tell his/her followers whom to vote for. The El Paso Times reports on a Catholic parish that appears to have done just that (WebCite cached article):

A local Catholic church appears to have violated IRS rules — and Catholic doctrine — by endorsing a presidential candidate in a church bulletin.

St. Raphael Catholic Church on the city’s East Side might have violated an Internal Revenue Service rule that prohibits tax-exempt churches from taking sides when it comes to candidates seeking political office in its Aug. 5 bulletin.

“I am asking all of you to go to the polls and be united in replacing our present president with a president that will respect the Catholic Church in this country,” the end of the entry in the bulletin says. “Please pass this on to all of your Catholic friends.”

The parish’s pastor has evaded questions, but his diocese has not, and agreed this is problematic, not only because it’s against IRS rules, it also Catholic doctrine itself:

But the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, which oversees St. Raphael, acknowledged in an email that the entry in the bulletin was inappropriate.

“Churches and other nonprofits are strictly prohibited from engaging in political campaigning/endorsement of a particular candidate,” said Deacon Carlos Rubio, vice chancellor of the diocese. “The Diocese of El Paso is aware of this requirement from the IRS and mindful that it does not violate such norms.” …

The primary U.S. church document on the Catholic Church’s role in politics is called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It says the role of bishops, priests and deacons is to teach fundamental moral principals that provide the framework for decisions such as how to vote.

“In fulfilling these responsibilities, the Church’s leaders are to avoid endorsing or opposing candidates or telling people how to vote,” the document says.

The article goes on to show the bulletin’s language is linked with the U.S. Catholic bishops’ struggle with the Obama administration:

The passage in the bulletin lists the number of employees of Catholic schools and hospitals in the United States, and it appears to be in response to Obama’s mandate that health plans offered by those employers cover birth-control medication for women who want it. Catholic doctrine opposes artificial means of birth control.

So while the diocese may have conceded that St Raphael in El Paso did something it shouldn’t have, I don’t see how it can possibly have been surprised by such a thing. The Christofascist bishops have gone to war with President Obama and are very clearly opposed to him. They’ve used various means — including lawsuits — to express their fury over his refusal to let them run the country and control people’s lives. Somehow, they think this deprives them of their religious liberty. (Yes, they really, actually do think that everyone — Catholic or not — is required to defer to them. Always, everywhere, and without question. They cannot and will never permit anyone to disobey them … and they’re happy to pitch fits then they think someone is doing so.)

Even though this bulletin clearly violated IRS rules, I don’t expect that agency to do anything about it. Generally they’re lax about policing that particular rule, and rarely come down on religious groups that violate it. Revoking a religious group’s non-profit status is a once-in-a-decade event for them. Yes, the IRS will “investigate” — whatever that might entail — but eventually the agency will decide nothing really happened, and that they won’t take any action.

Photo credit: Foursquare.

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