IRS sued to tighten enforcement of church electioneering

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  • The Skeptical Chymist SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Nov. 18, 2012 3:59 p.m.


    I have never found that those who claim to be religious show any higher sense of morality or ethics than those who are not religious; on the other hand I have detected a significant amount of condescension among those who consider themselves superior because of their religious views. What matters is that individuals in a society (and especially the leaders of that society) be ethical, honest, and worthy of trust. These attributes have been considered by many to be the result of a religious outlook, but I think these claims are overblown. There are just as high a fraction of scoundrels among the religious as among those who lack religion, and just as high a fraction of commendable individuals among the irreligious as among those who are religious. Personally, I don't care how religious or irreligious a person may be. What matters is how he/she conducts himself and interacts with his/her fellow humans. The rest is window-dressing.

  • frugalfly PULLMAN, WA
    Nov. 18, 2012 9:30 a.m.

    The founders stated that Liberty and Freedom (democratic-republic) was a political system only fit for the moral AND religious individual and not for anyone else because they knew all other individuals would eventually destroy themselves or the country with the misuse of that Liberty and Freedom. The key is AND in the statement above. Doesn't cut it to be religious and not moral or moral and not religious. It sets a high bar for the individual member of society to be the very best that they can be.

  • Zona Zone Mesa, AZ
    Nov. 18, 2012 1:18 a.m.

    @ Maudine. Regulating what can be said from the pulpit violates three clauses of the First Amendment: Speech, Establishment, and Free Exercise.

  • Counter Intelligence Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 17, 2012 7:20 a.m.

    Not allowing non-profits to have tax exempt status if they engage in political speech was a policy promoted, implemented and used by LBJ - because he wanted to silence non-profits that were criticizing him

    Its all about censorship

    The Freedom From Religion foundation is a close relative of the Freedom From Jews foundation - they are the problem

  • JoeBlow Far East USA, SC
    Nov. 17, 2012 5:27 a.m.

    Rock. It goes further than that.

    Any corporation can now donate an unlimited amount of money to a political pac. So, every stockholder is "forced" to go along with the political leanings of the company management.

    I am opposed to all money in politics. Corporate, union, lobby? Are you against all money or just union money?

    Ready to fight against the Citizens United Ruling?

  • The Rock Federal Way, WA
    Nov. 16, 2012 10:50 p.m.

    1. As I understand it there is no law, passed by congress, prohibiting churches from endorsing candidates. LBJ signed an executive order to that effect and the IRS has been tasked to enforce it. Unconstitutional in my book.

    2. Labor Unions have forced membership and forcibly extract dues, usually by payroll deduction. People join and donate to churches voluntarily.

    3. Labor Unions newsletters are usually overtly political. Church publications almost never are.

    4. Labor Unions effectively donate to only one political party. I am a conservative Republican. I am forced to join a labor union or my union will demand that my employer fire me. My union dues are used almost excursively to finance political causes that I oppose.

    Why can a labor union (a tax exempt corporation) steel my money and use it to promote things that I oppose and my church that I voluntarily join and donate to cannot use my money for political causes that I support?

    Labor Unions are effectively tax collectors for the Democrat Party.

  • Mendel Iowa City, IA
    Nov. 16, 2012 8:07 p.m.

    "the power to tax is the power to destroy."
    John Marshall, chief justice

    If the government can tax religion...

  • zoar63 Mesa, AZ
    Nov. 16, 2012 5:53 p.m.


    "Religion and politics do not mix. Tax churches and ta-da, problem solved."

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. You notice it is Congress, the law makers that the first amendment puts the restrictions on but there is no restriction of religion to give its input on government policy or even endorsing a politician. Threatening to take away a tax exempt status from a religious body is prohibiting the free exercise thereof. So where is this separation of Church and State that some people claim exists in the constitution?

  • ? SLC, UT
    Nov. 16, 2012 3:10 p.m.

    I'm curious to know, does the Freedom from Religion Foundation pay taxes? If not, then why the complaint? If they succeed in causing churches to pay taxes, then is the Freedom from Religion Foundation also prepared to pay taxes? Why should churches be silenced from the public square, while those against religion should be allowed to continue to speak out against religion?

    But I agree with Utes Fan. If churches must be taxed, then they then will have all the more right to represent themselves within the realm of politics over topics they are concerned about.

    Those against religion don't have to practice any religion. Many might encourage you to participate, but no one is forcing you. So, why prevent others from worshiping if they choose to worship? But it seems those against religion won't be happy until no one is able to worship as those who choose to worship desire to worship.

  • killpack Sandy, UT
    Nov. 16, 2012 1:57 p.m.

    Maudine said,

    "All tax-free agencies - whether churches or secular organizations - are held to the same laws pertaining to political advocacy."

    Kathleen Sebelius campaigned for Obamacare on the taxpayers dime. The media didn't even blink an eye. Why shouldn't churches be able to campaign with their own money? I hope this story dies a quick and painless death.

  • Res Novae Ashburn, VA
    Nov. 16, 2012 12:27 p.m.

    The complaint that a tax exemption amounts to promotion of religion has been specifically addressed by SCOTUS:

    "The grant of a tax exemption is not sponsorship, since the government does not transfer part of its revenue to churches, but simply abstains from demanding that the church support the state. No one has ever suggested that tax exemption has converted libraries, art galleries, or hospitals into arms of the state or put employees 'on the public payroll.' There is no genuine nexus between tax exemption and establishment of religion." Walz v. Tax Commission of the City of New York (1970).

    Laws specifically shielding churches from taxation have been around since the late 1800s, but unofficially the shield has always been there. It's axiomatic in American law that "the power to tax is the power to destroy." Under that bedrock principle, taxing churches gives the government the power to penalize or shut down churches, a clear limitation of the free ezpression of religion.

    The specific line-drawing on this issue remains hazy, but the principle of separating church and state has always included tax exemption. Anyone advocating its removal has 200+ years of jurisprudence and public policy to overcome.

  • Utes Fan Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 16, 2012 11:58 a.m.


    "Religion and politics do not mix. Tax churches and ta-da, problem solved."

    Quite the contrary. Ever hear of "No Taxation Without Representation"? Tax churches and these restrictions are no longer in place. That would give a "green light" for churches to be more influenced in politics, not less.

  • RG Buena Vista, VA
    Nov. 16, 2012 10:28 a.m.

    @ The Skeptical Chymist,
    I disagree. The founders of the USA were not antireligion, nor did they oppose religion in the public square. It would have been A-OK with them for government to encourage people to be religious, just not to encourage a certain religion.

  • Maudine SLC, UT
    Nov. 16, 2012 10:24 a.m.

    @ killpack: All tax-free agencies - whether churches or secular organizations - are held to the same laws pertaining to political advocacy.

    Anyone who violates those laws has to give up their tax-free status.

    It really is not a conspiracy against churches.

  • The Skeptical Chymist SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Nov. 16, 2012 9:30 a.m.

    I've never understood why religious organizations are given special treatment in the IRS tax code. The first amendment establishes freedom of religion, and of the press. Yet, publishing companies are taxed and churches are not. Why is it that I can get a deduction by donating money to a church, but not when I donate the money to a political party? By singling out religious organizations for tax exemption, the government is clearly acting to promote religion, contrary to the spirit of the first amendment. I suppose it doesn't rise to the level of "establishment of religion", but it is clearly special treatment that runs counter to the Enlightenment ideals that led to the founding of this country.

  • killpack Sandy, UT
    Nov. 16, 2012 8:39 a.m.


    What about non-religious entities? What about our secular government? So they can disseminate their propaganda, often on the taxpayers' dime, but churches can't (or they can, they just have to give up tax free status)? How incredibly injust! How incredibly unconstitutional!

  • The Scientist Provo, UT
    Nov. 16, 2012 6:20 a.m.

    Many Churches are really little more than PACs and MLM schemes.

  • the truth Holladay, UT
    Nov. 15, 2012 10:20 p.m.


    Those "laws" are unconstitutional,

    which is why the IRS has never even tried to enforce them.

    We have free speech in this country regardless if you pay taxes or not. And Religions and the religious enjoy those rights as well.

    Do we really want the government proscribing what can said over the pulpit? IS that not the reason for the first 9th and 10th amendments?

    There is nothing which stops the D-News from endorsing candidates, and there is nothing that stops the church from endorsing candidates, the church just chooses wisely not to get involved in politics because politics are not important in regards to eternal salvation. The church follows the precept that they teach men correct principles and let men the agency to govern themselves, hopefully following those principles.

    But the church has every right to interject if they believe it is necessary, especially in moral issues or issues that may be destructive to society.

    God does care about us temporally as well as spiritually. Ans cares about our liberty. And will give us counsel through personal prayer or his servants.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    Nov. 15, 2012 8:08 p.m.

    Organized religion and corporated churchs must be kept out of government and the public square or the nation will end up with the same social problem as the middle east nations with radicals and extremist fighting one another for control and obedience to their paranoic believes.

  • killpack Sandy, UT
    Nov. 15, 2012 7:11 p.m.

    Maudine said,

    "Since all they are asking is that an investigation be done, it is hard to guess how it will turn out."

    I have a guess. This story will die in a day or two. This threatens the supporting base of all parties in the recent elections, but most importantly the parties that won and are currently in power. They'll sweep this under the rug like they've done with far worse scandals. So be it. You're right that it is the law, so to speak. However, I have zero interest in upholding what I consider to be an unconstitutional law. Moreover, I'm STRONGLY opposed to churches, regardless of what nonsense they spew from their pulpits, being forced to pay money to a totally corrupt and incompetent federal government.

  • burrd newark, OH
    Nov. 15, 2012 6:54 p.m.

    Please, the title of the article states that the IRS is being sued, not churches. Let the courts decide if it is being negligent.

  • RanchHand Huntsville, UT
    Nov. 15, 2012 6:41 p.m.

    Religion and politics do not mix. Tax churches and ta-da, problem solved.

  • Maudine SLC, UT
    Nov. 15, 2012 5:13 p.m.

    @ casual observer: Where does this have anything to do with practicing religion?

    @ morpunkt: Where does it say this group isn't going after all churches? The name of the group is Freedom From Religion - what about that implies that they support any religion?

    The law is very clear - if you are a tax-free organization, you cannot advocate for a candidate. If you wish to advocate for a candidate, you need a separate taxable branch that does the advocating for you. It is not rocket science - it is plain English.

    That said - the examples provided in this article do not show a clear violation of the rule, although there is an implied violation. Since all they are asking is that an investigation be done, it is hard to guess how it will turn out.

  • killpack Sandy, UT
    Nov. 15, 2012 3:24 p.m.


    Though I am vehemently opposed to the authoritarian efforts of the federal government in general and the IRS in specific to restrict the freedom of speech and/or compel citizens and organizations into taxation, this lawsuit is a contradiction and will therefore go by the wayside. As you've pointed out, dozens, if not hundreds, of black preachers must have encouraged their parishioners to re-elect President Obama. As the quintessential G man, I'm pretty certain he (The President) would love to send the IRS after churches for more tax revenue. However, that would, at the same time, pose too much of a threat to his base. My guess is this story will die in another 24-48.

  • morpunkt Glendora, CA
    Nov. 15, 2012 1:45 p.m.

    Will this "non profit" also pursue the Black churches in the country who vocally supported Obama from the pulpit? Notice their preference?

  • casual observer Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 15, 2012 1:29 p.m.

    The rule is that you can practice religion in your home and on Sunday, but not the rest of the week. Now it seems that Sundays are at risk. Is the home next?

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    Nov. 15, 2012 1:21 p.m.

    How about also suing fake "charities" like the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is not taxed because they have managed to stretch the laws and set themselves up as a tax exempt charity.

    And for that matter, how about suing all those anonymous PACs?

  • atl134 Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 15, 2012 1:16 p.m.

    @Liberal Ted
    Because we have laws against tax exempt organizations like churches from openly endorsing candidates. That's the same law that leads to things like the Deseret News not endorsing candidates and the LDS church explicitly stating that they do not get involved except on certain ballot initiatives and are neutral with regards to candidates/parties. There are other churches though that don't stay within these confines.

  • Liberal Ted Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 15, 2012 12:44 p.m.

    Interesting that groups can sue leaders in churches for using their free speech during an election. Why can someone sue another person that is expressing free speech? Even in a position of trust or perceived power? Politicians are allowed to voice their opinion, yet we claim they represent all people (isn't that a conflict of interest? Do they not hold a position of trust?).

    I think religion should be able to voice their opinions wherever and however they want to. Their charitable work makes up more than taxing them to death would accomplish.

    I understand the fear of religion taking over government. But you could say that about any group, organization etc.

    What we should be looking into is overseas money influencing candidates, politicians and those that are getting sweet stock deals. Yeah, they passed a law to slap their own hands, but, let's face it...if you can make millions for a slap on the hand. It's still worth it.