Thursday, November 10, 2005

Churches, Politics And The IRS

While in LA I saw the following article. I had to wonder about the Catholic church and its actions towards John Kerry during the election and his pro-choice stance. It also made me wonder about the Catholic chruch's current actions for the anti-equal marriage initiative.

The LA Times reports:

The Internal Revenue Service has warned one of Southern California's
largest and most liberal churches that it is at risk of losing its tax-exempt
status because of an antiwar sermon two days before the 2004 presidential
election.

Rector J. Edwin Bacon of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena told many
congregants during morning services Sunday that a guest sermon by the church's
former rector, the Rev. George F. Regas, on Oct. 31, 2004, had prompted a letter
from the IRS.


In his sermon, Regas, who from the pulpit opposed both the Vietnam War and
1991's Gulf War, imagined Jesus participating in a political debate with
then-candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry. Regas said that "good people of
profound faith" could vote for either man, and did not tell parishioners whom to
support.


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.


An LA Times article the next day went on to discuss the difference in the tax code between political candidates and ballot initiavtives:

The tax code prohibits nonprofits from "participating or intervening in any
political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public
office." The ban includes endorsements, donations, fundraising or any other
activity "that may be beneficial or detrimental to any particular
candidate."

Advocating for ballot initiatives, as many California churches have done in
advance of today's special election, is a separate issue, tax experts said.
Churches and other tax-exempt organizations are allowed to engage in lobbying as
long as "a substantial part of the organization's activities is not intended to
influence legislation."

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