Posts Tagged “IRS”

‘The Christocrats are coming! The Christocrats are coming!’ / PsiCop modified graphic, based on 1940s illustration of Paul Revere’s ride / National Archives #535721, via Wikimedia Commons (url: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paul_Revere%27s_ride.jpg)The Religious Right has agitated against the Johnson Amendment — a decades-old regulation that prevents non-profit entities from endorsing political candidates — for many years now. It’s not as though its existence has prevented them from building a religious-political edifice of their own; but they think, somehow, that it has stifled them. They claim it hinders churches’ free speech, but that’s a lie. Right now, any church in the country can, in fact, endorse political candidates. All they need, in order to do it, is to forfeit their tax exemption. That seems a small price to pay to get true “freedom,” but they love their money more than they love their freedom, so they refuse, and bitch and whine about it.*

With the election of a Groper-in-Chief who’s promised to end the Johnson Amendment (Archive.Is cached article), they finally have someone in the White House who could make that reality. As the Associated Press reports via Yahoo News, the Religious Right-dominated House’s proposed tax plan will do exactly that (cached):

Churches would gain the right to endorse political candidates and still retain their tax-free status under a provision in the House GOP’s tax overhaul plan.

The bill would repeal a 63-year-old law credited to former President Lyndon Johnson when he served in the Senate.…

Campaign finance groups warned the change could have far-reaching implications, turning “churches into tools for secret campaign spending,” said Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United.

More to the point, though, it will turn churches into political engines in their own right and help them promote Christofascism even more than they already do. It will further open the door to increased Christocracy.

* Strangely enough, Jesus himself clearly ordered Christians never to be concerned with money. Among some of his more famous teachings:

  • “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. … No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:19-21, 24)
  • And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)

But let’s be honest, Christians have vociferously ignored Jesus’ teachings for close to 2,000 years; at this point I don’t think the poor little things can help themselves any more.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on original from Wikimedia Commons.

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Led by the stalwart legions of Religious Right™ lawyers at the Alliance Defense Fund (an outfit you need to learn more about, if you haven’t already), a bunch of pastors are going to fight off the IRS rule against churches endorsing political candidates (as reported by the Washington Post):

Ban on Political Endorsements by Pastors Targeted

Declaring that clergy have a constitutional right to endorse political candidates from their pulpits, the socially conservative Alliance Defense Fund is recruiting several dozen pastors to do just that on Sept. 28, in defiance of Internal Revenue Service rules.

The effort by the Arizona-based legal consortium is designed to trigger an IRS investigation that ADF lawyers would then challenge in federal court. The ultimate goal is to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a 54-year-old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of worship.

“For so long, there has been this cloud of intimidation over the church,” ADF attorney Erik Stanley said. “It is the job of the pastors of America to debate the proper role of church in society. It’s not for the government to mandate the role of church in society.”

I’m disappointed in the headline. It conveys the idea that pastors are “banned” from saying anything. This is decidedly not the case. Like all Americans they have First Amendment rights to say whatever they want. No one is censoring them or “banning” them from endorsing candidates. Rather, their problem is that their churches have tax-exempt status, which binds them to the same restriction that all other tax-exempt entities must live up to, which is not to engage in politicking. So these ferocious pastors and their churches are, in fact, quite free to endorse candidates — they just have to forfeit their tax-exempt status in order to do so.

The legions of the ADF are, therefore, positing a “straw man,” one that the Post unwittingly (I think) is supporting in its choice of headline. The fact is that pastors are in no way “banned” from speaking. That they would claim so, makes them dishonest. They merely can’t campaign for political candidates and keep their churches’ tax exemption. That they would be so ardent about this shows what their true motivations are … money and power!

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Let’s hear it for the United Churches of Christ (UCC) which managed the feat of providing a platform for a political candidate during its convention in Hartford CT last year, without violating IRS regulations about religious groups not engaging in politics.

Yes, you heard that right. A church group, which is not supposed to be political, gave a candidate a speaking venue to sell himself, but somehow didn’t actually do so, according to the IRS:

The Internal Revenue Service says the United Church of Christ did not violate rules when it hosted Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama at its convention in Hartford last year.

The IRS says Obama’s appearance at the UCC’s national meeting in June 2007 did not violate federal rules governing the appearance of politicians at religious events.

Earlier this year, the IRS had said there were questions that the speech violated restrictions on political activity for tax-exempt organizations. The denomination has denied any wrongdoing.

However, in a letter to the national church the tax agency says it found the UCC had taken the necessary steps to avoid any appearance that Obama’s appearance was of a political nature.

Let’s all give the UCC a round of applause for successfully skirting the law in the cause of Jesus! Hallelujah!

If this sounds familiar, you’re not seeing things or experiencing deja vu; there really has been a recent spate of news stories in which religious folks are being allowed to violate laws in the name of their religions (see this blog entry and this one). Hopefully this trend unnerves you as much as it does me.

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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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