Sunday, November 30, 2008
San Francisco Chronicle: Tax-Exempt Benefit Disputed in Prop. 8 Campaign, by Matthai Kuruvila:
In the wake of Proposition 8's passage, opponents are railing that churches that supported the ballot measure violated their tax-exempt status.
It's a common accusation at the now-weekly protests, gaining enough traction that Geoff Kors, a member of the No on 8 executive committee, said lawyers are investigating the issue. "The Mormon church overstepped its boundaries by being a tax-exempt organization," said Sharone Negev, 54, of San Francisco, who has gone to protests in San Francisco and the Mormon temple in Oakland. "They clearly are not supposed to be involved in political activities."
But interviews with experts and activists on the issue say Prop. 8 opponents should look elsewhere for reasons to criticize the measure's supporters. "They almost certainly have not violated their tax exemption," said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the leading advocacy organization on the issue. "While the tax code has a zero tolerance for endorsements of candidates, the tax code gives wide latitude for churches to engage in discussions of policy matters and moral questions, including when posed as initiatives."
(Hat Tip: How Appealing.) See also Cain: CA Churches Will Not Lose Tax Exemptions for Performing Same-Sex Marriages If Prop 8 Fails (10/23/08).
Update: See also Nonprofit Law Prof Blog: LDS Church, Proposition 8, and the Lobbying Limitation, by John Colombo (Illinois)