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November 07, 2005



There have been a number of times in recent years when I've questioned the wisdom or legitimacy of the tax exempt status of a few religious outfits, and (from what you said) Regas' sermon doesn't really come close. This is, as you say, stunningly hypocritical on the part of the IRS.

Still, a bit more direct and spirited activism w/r/t an initiative rather than a candidate or party seems a bit less problematic. What makes me wonder about tax exempt status isn't the degree to which Churches push their anti-abortion (or anti-war) activism to extremes, including those rare opportunities they have to vote directly on the issue--it's when they've become part of a party machine. (I wonder if that Church in VA that threatened to expell anyone who voted for Kerry got such a letter?)What disturbs me most about Pat Robertson isn't his strident opposition to abortion. It was the time I saw him on a talk show saying we shouldn't worry too much about the forced abortions in China when considering MFN status--clearly a politically calculated move based on the current position of the Republican party to which he has become so intimately connected.

The election, for me, hinges on two propositions: 75 and 76. The first would make it far more difficult for unions (such as my own California Teachers Association) to effectively challenge huge corporate interests in state government.

Correction: the first would require unions, whose current privileged status enables them to outspend their competition 3-1, to play by the same rules as everybody else in the political arena. Corporations can't force me to contribute to political campaigns, nor can the NRA, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, or any other advocacy group that can plausibly claim that I personally benefit from their lobbying efforts. Only my union can. [More precisely, only "my" former union, the CTA, can. My current "union," the California State Bar, engaged in similar shenanigans in the past, but was reined in by the Wilson Administration. That's OK, only lawyers need paycheck protection.]

The second would give the governor inordinate power to slash budgets, and would likely lead to decreased spending on schools.

Correction: the second would require the state government to stay within its budget. As long as it does, it grants no special powers to anybody. If it doesn't, it then gives the Legislature 45 days to correct matters. Only when the Legislature fails to do so does it give the governor any new powers to do anything about the budget. The sad part is that Prop 76 is almost certain to fail tomorrow, meaning there is almost no chance we'll have a balanced budget by 2006, at which point angry voters may well end up voting Arnold out of office in part to punish him for "his" failure to balance the budget.

As to the IRS's supposed double-standard, it's enough to note that it took the IRS a full year to announce any objection to an ostensibly anti-war, but transparently anti-Bush speech. Isn't only fair that we wait at least that long before we assume they won't do the same to the church passing out DVDs promoting Prop 73?


Well, XRLQ, I hope your fears about Prop. 76 prove true. And I suppose you're right, we ought to wait to see about the fall-out from Prop. 73 and the IRS.

I recall however, that many local churches were actively promoting Prop 22 in 2000 (the "save marriage") initiative, and I heard nothing about IRS investigations.


Issue propositions can be supported by churches without fear of tax complications. Preaching on issues involved in candidate elections can be done without fear of tax complications. What CANNOT be done is direct endorsement of either a candidate or a party, in words approximating, "vote for Republicans" or "vote for Bush". Voter guides are dicey, and if used, must cover a wide range of issues in neutral language and must include opinions of both candidates. The types of voter guides produced by Christian Coalition did not pass IRS guidelines, and CC was dinged for them. By and large, it is rare for the IRS to go after actual churches. IRS more frequently goes after "para-church organisations". Never does it go after the Catholic Church, even when the Church tailors its demands, on pain of mortal sin, to vote for the anti-abortion candidate without regard for any other issue. Partly this may be due to political reality, partly due to tougher and more lawyers working for Church than for small fry.

The right has figured out the tax code and has relied on propositions and amendments as recruiting devices that can be safely and blatantly used by churches for getting out the Republican vote.

I'd say your guest preacher's problem was in saying Jesus would have been opposed to the very specific war strategy mistakes that Bush made, instead of generalizing a bit and saying Jesus resisted being a war leader (Messiah/King of the Jews), despite some enthusiasm by some Jews sick of the Roman occupation, and recommended turning the other cheek, and stated "blessed are the peacemakers", and preached more on duty towards the poor and sick than on any other topic.

The Angry Clam


Polls are a strange thing, particularly with charged issues- people will often tell the pollster the less "troublemaking" stance, even if that's not how they plan to vote.

For example, propositions 187 and 209 both polled worse than they fared- some of this is probably GOTV ops, but some of it is probably poll error as well. Likewise, gay marriage bans never do as well as they poll in conservative states, probably for similiar reasons.

On another point, the IRS will probably be looking in to the DVDs as well- consider filing a complaint. It should also be noted that this isn't anywhere near the first time, or totally selective- Bob Jones University got delisted as tax exempt in the 1980s, remember.

Plus, the IRS, like many agencies, likes to bring test cases, and this could be one of those- "let's see how close we can get to the line" or whatnot. Believe me when I say that tax lawyers, and tax professors (even at UCLA Law, which is regarded as having a fairly conservative tax faculty) believe that every single thing should be taxed, without exemptions for mortgages, capital losses apart from immediate gains offsets, poor people, food, charity, etc. The IRS is a product of that.


Except that the IRS has an exceptionally long standing policy of *not* going after religious organizations, even if they skate very close to the line. There are far more blatant violations of the statute that are routinely ignored. I find it odd and troubling that this is the sort of thing that would get All Saints in hot water.

[Bob Jones University got its tax-exempt status revoked for its racial discrimination (admissions, dating policies, etc.) which is rather different from criticizing war.]


The Angry Clam returns, calloo callay! Mollusk, I too worry about the polls for exactly that reason.

I would never file a complaint with the IRS; I've long believed churches across the spectrum should enjoy wide latitude to endorse candidates.

Well, XRLQ, I hope your fears about Prop. 76 prove true.

I trust that this means you misread my comment. Partisanship aside, I like to think you're not cynical enough to want voters to punish any politician in 2006 for failing to do the very thing that the voters themselves prevented him from doing in 2005.


I am not up on EC-USA polity, butI assume there is no standard operating procedure requiring a guest's sermons and other statements to be pre-screened and censored before delivery. So it seems doubly fishy to me that the IRS is going after this particular congregation for a statement made by someone who is not the current employee of the congregation. And if the guest preacher is employed elsewhere in the diocese, I also find it fishy that the IRS hasn't prosecuted the whole diocese. I am guessing that the IRS behavior is on thin ice legally, and the IRS suit would be considered barratry (intentional filing of suit known to be of no validity) if committed by some other non-US-gov. entity.


Apparently, there's a bit more to this story than Hugo lets on.


Apparently, there's a bit more to this story than Hugo lets on.


I can say that again.

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