November 7, 2005

Liberal Church? Here Come The Feds.

But he criticized the war in Iraq, saying that Jesus would have told Bush, “Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster.”

On June 9, the church received a letter from the IRS stating that “a reasonable belief exists that you may not be tax-exempt as a church … ” The federal tax code prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns and elections.

Question the war in Iraq, and the IRS come knocking.

Tell people how to vote based on the abortion issue, gay marriage or other conservative hot-buttons… heck, you’ll probably get some faith-based initiative funding!

In an October letter to the IRS, Marcus Owens, the church’s tax attorney and a former head of the IRS tax-exempt section, said, “It seems ludicrous to suggest that a pastor cannot preach about the value of promoting peace simply because the nation happens to be at war during an election season.”
Posted by James at November 7, 2005 2:25 PM
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Churches can lose their tax-exempt status if they "intervene" in political campaigns and elections? Really? Does the Fall River diocese know that, with their anti-gay-marriage petition that some priests are promoting during Mass?

Posted by: Julie at November 7, 2005 2:55 PM

To Julie's point, here's how they violated 501(c)(3):

http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/article/0,,id=120703,00.html

In general, no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.

Legislation includes action by Congress, any state legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, with respect to acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items (such as legislative confirmation of appointive office), or by the public in referendum, ballot initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure. It does not include actions by executive, judicial, or administrative bodies.


An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.

Now I must ask: Where are their letters from the IRS?

Posted by: Patti M. at November 7, 2005 3:49 PM

Yet, if you're a liberal church and discuss what Jesus thought about war... when the war itself is not up for a vote, look out.

Posted by: James at November 7, 2005 4:06 PM

The "substantial part" qualification is delightfully vague, isn't it?

Posted by: Julie at November 7, 2005 4:39 PM

Awww, Dem candidates flock (no pun intended)to Black Churches every November and the GOP organized Evangelical pastors during the run up to last year's election.

If both parties are going to use the believers they'd better get thicker skins.

Posted by: Steve at November 7, 2005 6:13 PM

That's not too much consolation to this church for getting harassed.

Posted by: James at November 7, 2005 6:49 PM
The federal tax code prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns and elections.

The proclamation by the American Catholic Church that it was a sin to vote Kerry is suddenly ringing in my ears. Anybody planning to revoke their tax exempt status? Didn't think so.

Posted by: Chuck S. at November 8, 2005 1:17 AM

Lots of religious organizations skate dangerously close to breaking the law, but, when you have priests telling you what to do during mass and when the church then sets up tables with the petition for its parishoners to sign behind the pews, the law is broken.

Pretty plain in my eyes.

Posted by: Patti M. at November 8, 2005 10:30 AM

Come on, now, the law is pretty clear. If you are critical of the administration in any way, you are unpratiotic. Being unpatriotic is against the law. It's all pretty clear cut.

Posted by: briwei at November 8, 2005 5:15 PM

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