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Monday, May 17, 2004

Will Catholic Church's Criticism of Kerry Jeopardize Tax Exemption?

Monday, May 17, 2004

Donald Tobin (Ohio State) raises the interesting question of whether the Bishop of Colorado placed his diocese's tax exemption in jeopardy by telling Catholics in a pastoral letter that that "any Catholics who vote for candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences [as the candidates who support these issues]?" According to the Bishop, such people "place themselves outside full communion with the Church and so jeopardize their salvation." Professor Tobin writes:

[The Bishop] later goes on to say that "The Church never directs citizens to vote for any specific candidate," but the letter certainly appears to be telling people to vote against Kerry.
This letter appears to me to be very close to the line. In its recent notice, Charities May Not Engage in Political Campaign Activities, the IRS indicated that:
"These organizations [501(c)(3)s] cannot endorse any candidates, make donations to their campaigns, engage in fund raising, distribute statements, or become involved in any other activities that may be beneficial or detrimental to any candidate. Even activities that encourage people to vote for or against a particular candidate on the basis of nonpartisan criteria violate the political campaign prohibition of section 501(c)(3)."
Isn't [the Bishop's] letter political activity detrimental to a candidate? It is not just saying good Catholics oppose these issues, but is instead saying that when a Catholic balances the pros and cons of a candidate, he risks salvation if he decides to vote for Kerry over Bush.
The Bishop has also picked specific issues that divide Bush and Kerry and makes reference to the coming election often. It is my understanding that the Church also opposes the death penalty, but that was not listed. (I have no idea of Kerry's position on the Death Penalty) Do I risk salvation by voting for either Kerry or Bush? It appears the Bishop picked specific issues that Kerry opposes (or Bush supports) and basically indicated that only people who vote for Kerry "jeopardize their salvation." (I understand he never mentions Kerry by name but it is impossible to read the letter and not get his meaning).
I am sure that the IRS will not take on the Catholic Church over this issue. But it seems to me to be another reason 1) not to exempt 501(c)s from campaign finance regulation and 2) not to rely on the IRS as an enforcement mechanism for campaign finance regulation.

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» Endangering the Tax Exemption from ProfessorBainbridge.com
From Tax Prof Blog:Donald Tobin (Ohio State) raises the interesting question of whether the Bishop of Colorado placed his diocese's tax exemption in jeopardy by telling Catholics in a pastoral letter that that "any Catholics who vote for candidates who [Read More]

Tracked on May 17, 2004 3:50:57 PM

» http://www.catholicfactor.com/archive/week_2004_05_16.html#000467 from The Catholic Factor
ProfessorBainbridge.com challenges the current string of observations that the Catholic Church is putting itself at risk by speaking out against voting behaviors of politicians and losing its tax exempt status. TaxProf Blog looks at the issue as well. ... [Read More]

Tracked on May 17, 2004 9:50:57 PM

» CHINA ARRESTS ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS from The Galvin Opinion
Two Roman Catholic priests have been arrested by Chinese authorities, according to an American foundation that promotes the Roman Catholic Church in China. . .Here are other sites discussing religion and politics. . . [Read More]

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There's a lot of wierd stuff in the news today. I thought I'd run through my daily read with you,... [Read More]

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» Endangering the Tax Exemption from ProfessorBainbridge.com
From Tax Prof Blog:Donald Tobin (Ohio State) raises the interesting question of whether the Bishop of Colorado placed his diocese's tax exemption in jeopardy by telling Catholics in a pastoral letter that that "any Catholics who vote for candidates who [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 19, 2004 2:14:01 PM

Comments

Jeeze, there is an anti-Catholic under every rock.
What about the black churches that have Democrat pols speak on Sunday?

Posted by: ralph | May 18, 2004 12:13:01 AM

Jeeze, there is an anti-Catholic under every rock.
What about the black churches that have Democrat pols speak on Sunday?

Posted by: ralph | May 18, 2004 12:13:10 AM

The Catholic Church does not oppose the death penalty in principle. It does limit the application of it.

Posted by: Craig | May 18, 2004 12:39:12 AM

So WHAT if the bureaucrats take away the Church's tax exemption. Think that'll stop the Church from doing it's job? As the culture descends more and more, politicians will naturally target the Church for preaching its unchanging message. Bring it on. I don't think that it'll make a darn bit of difference if they try to tax the Church. There are various legal ways to donate and to set up charities that can avoid the bureaucrats anyway.

However, the point your earlier commentators made is entirely correct: It's only when the Church starts enforcing its moral stances on how to regulate its OWN internal religious decision on who to give communion to (an ENTIRELY internal matter) that TaxProf suddenly gets his panties in a twist. No problems were raised when Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, or Louis Farrakhan preached in churches. Nope. You, sir, are an anti-Catholic bigot.

Posted by: Sydney Carton | May 18, 2004 1:13:19 AM

The IRS code that authorizes tax exemptions for churches is 501(c)(3). It reads:


Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)), and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.

From this, we find out that lobbying is permitted as per the limits of subsection (h)(1) which reads:


General rule

In the case of an organization to which this subsection applies, exemption from taxation under subsection (a) shall be denied because a substantial part of the activities of such organization consists of carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation, but only if such organization normally -

(A) makes lobbying expenditures in excess of the lobbying ceiling amount for such organization for each taxable year, or

(B) makes grass roots expenditures in excess of the grass roots ceiling amount for such organization for each taxable year.


From other sources, I understand that the lobbying limit is 20%.

This is scare mongering of a very low type.

Posted by: TM Lutas | May 18, 2004 2:03:00 AM

Missed a point. The pastoral letter does not mention any candidates by name nor does it mention any parties. In no way is it advocating a vote for Bush or against Kerry. It is attempting to influence the diocesan laity to use what they learn on Sunday during the rest of the week, including election day. Such general activity is authorized by 501(h).

Posted by: TM Lutas | May 18, 2004 2:16:53 AM

Personally I'd rather the state left religion alone and religion left the state alone. Churches shouldn't endorce a canidate, it is in the state's interest that it does not, so the state offers it a privilage in exchange for non-interferance.

If a church chooses to support a party, they shouldn't be able to keep that privilage. If churches were able to endorce canidates, it would lead to them creating political parties around their particular sect, and personally, I think if someone one the Baptist party nomination, that would most certainly NOT be someone I wanted running the country.

Your loyalty in office should be to your country first, otherwise, how could we ever have a Catholic president, since that would effectively be giving the control of the US to the pope.. Religion can never be the first factor in making a decision in a secular society.

Posted by: Dave Mears | May 18, 2004 2:18:26 AM

Right on, Dave, we wouldn't want one a them Catholic preznits. I'm glad we've got watchdogs like you and the Tax Prof to make sure them damn Papists don't get the upper leg on us.

When some religion starts telling people what they can do or not do, the wall of separation between church and state will be pretty well breached. That'll be the end of things as we know it. So we need to make sure that these churches know, if they start telling their members what to do, and it could have some potential political effect, we're coming after 'em.

Posted by: Al Maviva | May 18, 2004 7:06:06 AM

If John Kerry doesn't want to be told how to be a Catholic, he should just stop calling himeself a Catholic. It's the same as the old story about "just turning off the TV." If his beliefs are outside the mainstream of the Catholic Church, he should look for a new church. Since when doesn't a church (or the Boy Scouts) have the right to set the rules of membership ?
Just how many churches have been scrutinized for repeated appearances of Presidential candidates and other politicians at "fundrasisers" ? None. This old endangering it's tax exempt status argument should be given a grave marked, "killed by the 1st admendment."

Posted by: J_Crater | May 18, 2004 1:26:50 PM