November 08, 2005

IRS Threatens Tax-Exempt Status Of Anti-War Church

This is interesting:

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- The Internal Revenue Service has warned a prominent liberal church it could lose its tax-exempt status because of an anti-war sermon a guest preacher gave on the eve of the 2004 presidential election, church officials say.

The Rev. George F. Regas did not urge parishioners at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena to support either President Bush or John Kerry, but he was critical of the Iraq war and Bush's tax cuts.

The IRS warned the church in June that its tax-exempt status was in jeopardy because such organizations are prohibited from intervening in political campaigns and elections.

I am not overly religious and I do understand that others may feel differently about whether or not a religious organization should be involved in politics.

However, I would agree with the IRS that churches, synagogues or mosques can make a choice: either (a) the organization is a religious organization, which is entitled to tax exempt status or (b) the organization is a political organization, which is not entitled to tax exempt status. When you overtly take sides in a political fight, my thought would be that you have made the decision to be a political organization.

By the way - just to pre-empt the inevitable - I believe the same goes for churches that attempt to "get out the Republican vote". While religious Republicans are an important part of the Republican base, churches should not be trying to encourage its paritioners to vote Republicans. The politics should be left to other organizations.
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