Churches to put their tax status on the line for the GOP?

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by SMM, May 9, 2008.

  1. SMM macrumors 65816

    SMM

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    #1
    Why is it that the right-wing just cannot stay within the framework of the law? Telling churches to become political action groups is scary in and of itself. And, to suggest they should break the law to do it defies any kind of moral rationalization.

    A point of clarification; I am not talking about the mainstream traditional christian churches. I am speaking about these southern baptist based evangelical right-wing groups. I have on occasion watched bits of TBN, to see what these ministers are saying. Some are fakirs, and most of the rest are terribly twisted individuals. The audience is spellbound, almost in a hypnotic spell. They have their hands raised in the air wallowing in holy zeal. It is mass brainwashing. It looks like a scene from a Hitler speech. I do not believe these people would vote objectively for a candidate. Instead they would vote for whoever they were told to. It would be like giving Pat Robertson, John Hagge, Ron Parsley and the rest 20,000 votes each. When it gets to TBN ... we are talking about a huge voting block, controlled by a few deranged men (and women). That is part of their strategy for turning America into a theocracy.
     
  2. iJon macrumors 604

    iJon

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    #2
    Most of these churches and its participants already know who they are going to vote for, which would be the GOP candidate, which would be John McCain.

    It will be interesting to see what the IRS does. I find it silly that they are tax exempt in the first place. I sure wish I was tax exempt due to my beliefs.

    jon
     
  3. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #3
    You're missing the point, iJon. Churches are tax-exempt precisely to keep religion and politics separate. That is definitely a good thing, as citizens in Iran will most likely tell you. The purpose is to keep government out of churches and churches out of government. The entire country should support that and prosecute any church that tries to put itself above the law. These types of people are whack-jobs and precisely the types the law was made for in the first place.
     
  4. iJon macrumors 604

    iJon

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    #4
    I understand the point. I also do agree that they should prosecute, I am just curious to see if they actually will (which I'm sure they will, IRS doesn't like their buttons pushed).

    Although I will be honest, if I were to take a poll of the gazillion churches here in my town I would assume over 90% would be voting for the same person regardless if their church recommended it, which would be McCain.

    jon
     
  5. CalBoy macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    #5
    Hmmm...I'm conflicted.

    On the one hand, I think that endorsing a candidate is free expression and your decision to endorse someone shouldn't draw punishment from the IRS, while on the other I know the motivations behind the Religious Right and its desire to indoctrinate the country.

    A curious thought though, why are only houses of worship subject to this law? Does this imply that other non-profit organizations are free to endorse candidates? If they are, I think that the law does indeed unfairly single out churches.
     
  6. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

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    #6
    If the other organisations are tax-exempt, yes.

    I suspect that the Constitutional intent is that organisations paying no taxes have zip to say on the running of the country.

    The separation of church and state works both ways.
     
  7. PlaceofDis macrumors Core

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    #7
    non-profits still pay taxes i thought?

    and yes a priest in personal can endorse whomever he/she wants, but to do so and push a congregation to vote for someone is crossing the political boundary which the church should not have a say in.
     
  8. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus

    mkrishnan

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    #8
    In parts of the country heavily dominated by evangelical protestants, yeah, that's probably fair. I think there are probably just as many churchgoers in left-leaning protestant and Catholic churches, who will almost gimme be voting for a Democrat, though.... one of the Obama coordinators who was on the phone on NPR yesterday regarding the most recent primary showings was a pastor. And I don't think Rev. Wright's church is exactly voting Republican either, although they're not helping the Dems much.
     
  9. CalBoy macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    #9
    Not that I'm aware of.

    I believe there is a distinction between those and not-for-profit organizations though.
    I don't know...

    Are we saying the priest can't use his advantages for the sake of spreading his personal speech? It seems rather against the First Amendment. You can't be restricted from speaking simply because your voice reaches more people can you?

    And, more importantly, no one is being forced to attend church. It isn't a captive audience. Otherwise, we might use the same argument to say that major tv networks can't broadcast political commercials, since their superior abilities to reach audiences is unfair.

    Just for the record, as an atheist, this does concern me. But, I don't happen to think this law is all that good to begin with.
     
  10. SMM thread starter macrumors 65816

    SMM

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    #10
    The law applies to all tax exempt organizations the same. Being 'not for profit', does not automatically qualify a group for exempt status. For example, exempt groups are prohibited from lobbying. If they wish to lobby, they have to set-up separate accounts for doing so, and those are not tax-exempt. If someone donates specifically to a special project, which involves lobbying, they are not able to claim a tax deduction.

    I once was a fundraising chairman for the Northwest Rivers Council. I read carefully the statutes pertaining to environmental organizations. But, being inquisitive, I also looked through the ones for other types of organizations. There were different mission reasons, what requirements must be met to have been granted tax-exempt status. There were also the list of activities they were not allowed to engage in, which were clearly outside their approved mission requirements. In summary, all 5013C organizations have restrictions placed on them, so no one is singling out churches.
     
  11. CalBoy macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    #11
    But we're not talking about lobbying here (which I agree with the law on), we're talking about endorsement.

    I frankly don't see why churches, or any non-profit for that matter, shouldn't be free to endorse whomever they want.
     
  12. SMM thread starter macrumors 65816

    SMM

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    #12
    No offense meant, but I think you are missing the point. First, TV networks are not tax-exempt organizations. They can say what they please (mostly). Churches can preach politics all they want. They just cannot claim tax-exempt status if they do. That is a privilege and subject to certain regulations. No one is taking away their first amendment rights. They just cannot have their cake and eat it too.
     
  13. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #13
    First off, there's a big difference between endorsing a candidate and actively campaigning for one. Getting up on the pulpit and railing against abortion is a lot different than telling your congregation that they will be damned for eternity if they don't vote for the anti abortion candidate.

    When tax exempt status was first created, the government was very concerned about people using that advantage against the government or to unduly influence the government.

    That hardly seems unreasonable.

    Perhaps you'd care to expound on the reasons why you think it is?
     
  14. CalBoy macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    #14
    And there's where I have a problem with the law to begin with. Who says that in order to be able to endorse a candidate, the organization must be for-profit? It seems ludicrous to think that somehow your tax status can be based on what type of speech you engage in. It is a classic violation of the First Amendment, and in particular, it seeks to restrict political speech.

    I don't have a problem understanding the current statute; I don't think the statute itself is Constitutional. By seeking to tax organizations which have no profit-based motive, but rather a socio-political motive, I feel that the government is attempting to prohibit speech.

    Put simply, this law violates Prongs 1 and 2 of the Lemon Test. Even though the Lemon Test has historically been used in school cases, I feel it's apt here as well.

    Why can't a church have its cake and eat it too?

    They are both degrees of speech are they not? The pulpit doesn't have any special powers over a tv, radio, blog, etc. The only factor is whether or not the congregation is willing to follow the pastor, which if they are, is their own foolish decision to make. What gives the IRS special status to decide that this type of political speech can be made more expensive (and hence prohibitive)?
    I'm not quite sure I understand this. How can speech be used against a government? Isn't that the point of speech? What good is speech if the government can't be ridiculed, mocked, and made to be an embarrassment?

    If you can't influence the government with your speech, what's the point of speaking? The First Amendment, in no uncertain terms, specifies that the people have the right to redress government for their grievances.
    Of course!

    I don't believe an organization's tax status should be tied to their speech, but rather to their actions. If an organization engages in any activity which seeks to inform, educate, motivate, or somehow engage the community for non-capitalistic purposes, then I feel that its status should be intact.

    The only time I would change the tax status of an organization is if the organization has clearly failed to live up to the standards of non-profit (excessive endowment that isn't being spent in the community, obvious use of funds for non-organization purposes, etc) in an economic sense. Trying to judge an organization by what it preaches can only get us into trouble, as each organization should be allowed to espouse whatever view it wants, and that includes endorsing candidates. As long as money isn't being used, there shouldn't be a problem.

    This coming from an atheist, card-carrying member of the ACLU. :eek::p
     
  15. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #15
    And therein lies the problem. Money is being used, or not being used as the case may be. If a church wants to start lobbying for candidates, they can, but they have to pay taxes and are subject to more government regulation, as they should be. We as individuals are taxed as well. We have the right to say whatever we want, because we're part of the system and paying into it. If an organization isn't paying into it (contributing) that is a privilege for which you sacrifice certain things. I don't think that's unconstitutional at all. You're going to need to prove that to me. I fail to see where any liberty has been denied.
     
  16. CalBoy macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    #16
    As far as I can tell from the story posted, the churches are planning to object to the law which prevents them from stating the political views of pastors.

    If money changes hands, that's an entirely different matter, but from what I can tell, tax laws don't allow churches to discuss political leaders if they seek non-profit exemptions.
     
  17. stagi macrumors 65816

    stagi

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    #17
    I do think that it's unfair, there are tons of non profits that are always campainging about something and churches have to keep a tight lip about politics. From what I have seen they can't even have discussions about someone running for office without fear of the IRS stripping their tax-exempt status. I think that churches should be free to discuss politics and a pastor should be able to share why he would or wouldn't vote for someone with his church.
     
  18. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #18
    Political views are one thing. Churches most definitely can discuss political issues and express their views on them. Where they are limited is endorsement of specific candidates. They can do so if they choose, but they must pay taxes. I'm finding it hard to believe that you can't make that distinction. I'm also puzzled as to why you don't understand the potential dangers of such a situation. Look no further than Iran.
     
  19. Queso macrumors G4

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    #19
    Personally I think all religious organisations should pay taxes anyway, in which case they'd be able to endorse whomever they please. The wealth that some of these churches can display whilst still asking their congregation to tithe borders on ridiculous, and the law is also used by cults to increase their financial status.

    Tax the lot and let them speak.
     
  20. Eraserhead macrumors G4

    Eraserhead

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    #20
    No, they should generally stay out of politics, religion and politics don't mix.

    What I find most hilarious about this is that all these people are going to vote GOP anyway so its completely pointless :rolleyes:.
     
  21. CalBoy macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    #21
    But why exactly? Because the tax statute says so? I don't think that's a very good reason because I find the statute itself problematic.
    There's a difference, I feel, between allowing individual churches to endorse candidates, and candidates endorsing churches.

    To me, it's the latter that is more dangerous. Ironically, I think that if churches were to start preaching about who to vote for, they would lose some of their sway over people. It's almost like holding sand in your fingers; the tighter you grasp, the less sand you can hold on to.

    As for Iran, I don't think this will lead to that; it's too slippery slope for me (and I knew someone was going to make that reference! :p). We aren't going to become a totalitarian regime simply because churches can endorse candidates. The US is very diverse in its faith, with the ability of individual churches to endorse different candidates.

    Mind you, I'd prefer it if churches stayed out of politics, science, philosophy, you know, the whole "life" thing, but the First Amendment essentially says that what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and I think we should respect that.


    I wouldn't object to this, as long as all non-profits are taxed. It just has to be even, whether or not the group preaches politics or not.
     
  22. leekohler macrumors G5

    leekohler

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    #22
    You just identified the problem right there. You can't have one without the other. And the slope isn't too slippery- there are too many examples throughout the world and history. Trust me- this is not a road we want to travel. We have these laws for a reason.
     
  23. SMM thread starter macrumors 65816

    SMM

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    #23
    OK. You have made your point (too many times). Write the IRS. Quit worrying about trying to be right. People have been pretty patient explaining the issues on this, but you just will not let it move on. I do not like you hijacking my thread by constantly regurgitating the same arguments, over and over again. Move on will you?
     
  24. CalBoy macrumors 604

    CalBoy

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    #24
    So then why not tax all non-profits the same, regardless of whether or not they engage in political speech?

    I guess my problem with this law is that it also prevents others from engaging in political speech. Amnesty International should be allowed to say that the Bush Administration is the worst on record. The ACLU should be allowed to say that Dick Cheney seeks to bring an end to civil liberties. The Human Rights Campaign should be allowed to say that McCain will take gay rights back a decade (or more). I think if any of these organizations had been the topic of discussion here, the thread would have taken an entirely different route. Are we always allowed to judge actions by the person doing the action and not the action itself? That doesn't seem very good to me.

    That's really my problem with the law; it doesn't work so nicely when the shoe is on the other foot.

    Even if we were to say that churches will necessarily cause a theocracy to emerge (which I really don't believe, because churches have been active in politics in this country since the beginning-but let's assume for the sake of argument), this law isn't the best way to go about addressing the problem.

    And, to address the point of emerging theocracies, it should be noted that theocratic governments almost always emerge after a dictator is already in power. When authoritarian regimes seek to consolidate power, they almost always build broad coalitions to get elected, and then abandon the coalition once they've achieved control. This is when religion enters the picture. Autocrats use religion in order to glorify the leader, and in order to solidify political power.

    Oh, and SMM, if you didn't want a dissenting voice in your thread, you should have written so in your OP; it isn't "hijacking" to disagree.

    So far the only responses to my points have been, "but this is the Religious Right," and "politics and religion should be separate," with no mention of why religion can't influence politics, which seems to be what the churches are going for.

    And I'll say this again, just in case someone missed it: The Religious Right scares the frack out of me. They're a bunch of weirdos with 19th Century beliefs if you ask me. But, this doesn't mean I'm ready to cut their rights short; that would be hypocritical.
     
  25. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

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    #25
    The PRSI is a special sub-forum for a reason.

    Wear your tin cup when you enter these portals.
     

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