Posts Tagged “tax exemption”

‘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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US flag with cross instead of starsBrace yourselves for even more religious politicking in the US. While campaigning for president, the Groper-in-Chief had said he would “destroy the Johnson amendment” (WebCite cached article). That’s the regulation which bars non-profit entities — of which churches and religious organizations are one type — from engaging in partisan politics.

The sniveling crybabies who comprise the Religious Right have agitated against this rule for decades. That it exists hasn’t prevented them from constructing a very powerful, religiously-propelled political engine … but that hasn’t stopped them from bellyaching about it. What’s more, it hasn’t stopped some of them from endorsing candidates without being punished by the IRS (which generally is afraid of enforcing it).

The New York Times reports that tomorrow, the National Day of Prayer, the Apricot Wonder will start making good on that promise (cached):

President Trump plans to mark the National Day of Prayer on Thursday by issuing an executive order that makes it easier for churches and other religious groups to actively participate in politics without risking their tax-exempt status, several administration officials said.

Taking action as he hosts conservative religious leaders Thursday morning, Mr. Trump’s executive order would attempt to overcome a provision in the federal tax code that prohibits religious organizations like churches from directly opposing or supporting political candidates.

The move is likely to be hailed by some faith leaders, who have long complained that the law stifles their freedom of expression. But the order is expected to fall short of a more sweeping effort to protect religious liberties that has been pushed by conservative religious leaders since Mr. Trump’s election.

Churches and other religious groups have whined for years that the Johnson amendment somehow “violates” their rights and gets in the way of their “free speech.” This, however, is completely untrue. It’s a lie straight out of the pit of Hell. All a church has to do, if it wants to endorse candidates and campaign for them, is to forfeit its tax exemption. Once it’s done that, it can politick to its heart’s content! There’s nothing — other than greed — preventing them from doing so.

The United States of Jesus is on its way, folks. You read it here first!

Photo credit: CJF20, via Flickr.

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crying-babyThe Christofascist and Neocrusading preacher Terry Jones, head of the Gainesville, FL church which goes by the ill-fitting name of Dove World Outreach Center, is the gift that just keeps on giving. He seems to throw crybaby tantrums almost regularly. His antics over burning Qur’ans are legendary … so legendary that they’ve triggered numerous riots and murders on the other side of the world in Afghanistan. He seethes with anger over the fact that there is such a thing as Islam and that there are Muslims who dare believe in that religion, and reject his own militant fundamentalist Christianity.

It seems, though, that — in spite of his ferocious rage over the existence of Islam — Jones has managed to find a new enemy to bluster and fume about: President Barack Obama. The Smoking Gun reports that Jones and his church have hung the president in effigy, over this support for abortion rights and gay marriage (WebCite cached article):

The Florida pastor who ignited an international furor by threatening to burn a pile of Korans has applied his subtle touch to the 2012 presidential campaign by constructing a gallows from which a likeness of President Barack Obama now hangs in effigy.

The display in the front yard of Terry Jones’s Dove World Outreach Center (DWOC) in Gainesville features a dummy wearing an Obama mask hanging from a yellow noose. Along with an American flag and a rainbow-striped gay pride flag, the scene includes an Uncle Sam dummy and a child’s doll hanging from the right hand of the Obama figure.

Nearby, the words “Obama is Killing America” are printed on a trailer. So, it appears, the creepy Jones is returning the favor.

Here’s the picture itself:

Display in front yard of Dove World Outreach Center, Gainesville, FL (The Smoking Gun)

Setting aside the question of whether or not this constitutes a threat to the president’s life — something the Secret Service will no doubt look into, and probably decide it’s not — it’s true that the First Amendment means Jones can do this. But it’s also true that this is clearly a political message, and that runs counter to the DWOC’s tax-exempt status (since all tax-exempt institutions, religious or not, are precluded from engaging in politicking, as the price they must pay for that tax exemption). Folks around the Web have commented that the IRS will surely look into it, and take away their exemption. I doubt it will come to that, however; the IRS has only rarely done this to religious groups, so the odds are very much in Jones’s favor.

Rightists have also noted that Leftist outrage over this is misplaced and hypocritical, since just a few years ago, Leftist demonstrators hung G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney in effigy. While I’m sure Rightists find this kind of “two wrongs make a right” thinking emotionally satisfying, the real question here is whether or not Jones and his church did something they knew they shouldn’t have (i.e. engage in politicking). It’s pretty clear it wasn’t (and I’m saying that, even assuming the IRS will choose to do nothing about it). Rightists ought to exhibit more integrity than that.

Photo credits: Top, bbaunach, via Flickr; center, The Smoking Gun.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

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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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