Churches May Intervene in Politics -- (if they know the loopholes)

Ghost Fleet of Pamlico Sound
Amer. United Agrees with Pat Robertson
RevLynn vs. Dobson
A Crummy Slogan?
A Case History
One Guy's Opinions
The Villains

an Adonesian beauty

First, let's realize that if your church wants to give up its tax-exempt status it can get just as politcal as any other organization. To people that say the Constitution guarantees separation of church and state, it just plain doesn't. It mentions religion only two places: Article Six, which prohibits religion from being a test for holding public office, and Amendment One, which prohibits Congress from passing any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibitting the free excercise thereof.
Both of these articles place constraints on Government, not on Religion. So if your church decides to fight something they deem to be evil, or even viciously cruel, go ahead, but they might have to start paying taxes and you might not be able to claim your offering plate dollars as tax deductions.
Remember, martyrs of the past have given up far more than tax exemption for their faith.
Churches have the Constitutional freedom of political speech, press, and petitioning of government, but to use it they might have to give up their tax-exempt status. 

By the rules of the Internal Revenue Service those non-profit organizations  classified as 501(c)(3) - that includes churches and many other organizations - are tax exempt and voluntary contributions to them are also tax exempt, but there are a couple of Got'chas:
1. They may not lobby to any "substantial" degree. "Lobbying" doesn't just mean sending a smooth-talking con man to Washington to wine and dine congresspersons. It also includes 'Please, fellow church members. Call or write your Senators and ask them to vote for the Freedom for Adonisians bill.'"
2. Also, 501(c)(3)s may not take part in most election campaigns for public office. This is true for Federal, state, or local contests.
click and scroll down to Prohibitted Activities.
LOOPHOLE: But churches have the right of Issue Advocacy, speaking out for or against the issues of the day, as long as they don't attempt to influence legislation or elections. But there are still LOOPHOLES!

"We can't push this legislation to a substantial degree? What the heck does 'substantial' mean?" I don't know. Neither does anybody else. This word has been in the IRS regulations since 1934 and it's never occurred to the IRS (whom we all love and admire) that maybe they should give us a definition.
click and scroll down to "Prohibitted Activities"
In 1976 Congress passed the LOOPHOLE, the 501(h) law, allowing  501(c)(3)'s who elect coverage under the "(h) election" to spend up to a certain percentage of their total expenditures (for example, 20% but a maximum of $1 million) for lobbying. click, scroll to 6th from last paragraph.
Also(click )and scroll to

"Then all our church has to do is sign that (h) election thing whatever it is and we can lobby to protect the Adonisians?"
Not so fast. There's a LOOPHOLE to the LOOPHOLE. That (h) election clause applies to most 501(c)(3)'s but it doesn't apply to churches.
click and scroll to
"Then we can't lobby (substantially)?"
Well maybe. The (h) election doesn't apply to churches but it does apply to Religious Organizations. And if that doesn't make sense remember it's the IRS we're talking about.
Click and scroll to page 2; The IRS says that (Non-church) "religious organizations typically include non-denominational ministeries, interdenominational and ecumenical organizations, and other entities whose principal purpose is the study or advancement of religion."
LOOPHOLE: Since Interdenominationalism is part of IRS's own definition of a Religious Organization, a church could help organize a religious group  made up of people moved with compassion for the enslaved Adonisians. If Pastor Atkins would get the support of Father O'Brien at St. Mary's and Rabbi Goldman at B'nai Abraham it would help.

Now back to that second rule: that 501(c)(3)s may not take part in most political campaigns for public office.
But there's still something that might be called a LOOPHOLE. Even during an election campaign a 501(c)(3) may publically support or oppose particular elements of a candidate's political platform, without mentioning him as an individual.

But there's a vacancy in the U.S. Supreme Court and the President has nominated Judge Nutberger who'se on record as saying "The Adonesians are clearly a sub-human species, nothing but animals."  Well, even though Nutberger is campaigning hard for the confirming votes of the Senate the IRS says it's an appointment, not an election, and 501(c)(3)s are welcome to jump into the middle of the fray.
LOOPHOLE: 501(c)(3)s can get as political as they want to in a battle for confirmation votes.

But they may not take part in most election campaigns for public office. They may not campaign for an individual candidate from the date he announces his candidacy or otherwise becomes officially a candidate (for example, being certified as a candidate by the Board of Elections). This is true for Federal, state, or local contests.

Let's use a real example. 
One way to learn the loopholes is to watch what  is being done by "Americans United for Separation of Church and State"  whose self described mission is to be a "watchdog" for "Separation of Church and State." They need to keep their own tax-exempt status and have attorneys in house, and you can bet they'll stay on the sunny side of IRS rules.
(click )The Internal Revenue Code (IRC) says:  (02-23-1999)
Intervention in Political Campaigns

1.       IRC 501(c)(3) precludes exemption for an organization that participates in or intervenes in (including the publishing or distributing of statements) any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. This is an absolute prohibition, with no requirement that the activity be substantial.

Ann Alito in tears

In Jan. 2006 Samuel Alito, nominated by President Bush for Supreme Court Assoc. Justice, was undergoing Senate Confirmation hearings. Sen. Ted Kennedy insinuated he was a bigot, as having been a member, while at Princeton, of an organization accused of bigotry. The charge put Mrs. Ann Alito in tears and she had to leave the room.

The person (arguably) most hated by Americans United is James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. He extended comfort and encouragement to the Alitos. And in the meantime the Americans United website came down hard on the Judge Alito, (click here and here and here).
The very day Alito was confirmed Americans United came down hard again. here.).

But by opposing a candidate, vigorously campaigning for the Senate vote of confirmation, weren't they endangering their own tax-exempt status?

No. The IRS code states as follows:  (02-23-1999)
Candidate for Public Office

1.       Attempting to influence the Senate confirmation of an individual nominated to serve as a federal judge does not constitute intervention or participation in a political campaign within the meaning of IRC 501(c)(3), since a federal judgeship is an appointive office, rather than an elective one. Notice 88–76, 1988–27 I.R.B. 34.

LOOPHOLE: Thus 501(c)(3)'s are free to campaign for or against Federal Judge nominees. This probably holds true of other appointees whose offices require advice and consent. But  the advice of legal council would be called for.

Justice Alito wrote to Dobson to thank him for his support. Was this proper or no? (Not for me to say.) Americans United answered loudly NQ! (Click here.)

Returning to the IRC:  (02-23-1999)
Political Activities

1.       Prohibited political activities include, but are not limited to, the publication or distribution of written or printed statements or the making of oral statements on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate. Reg. 1.501(c)(3)–1(3)(iii).

The key words above are "in behalf of or in opposition to a candidate." Nothing in the IRC prevents a church or other 501(3)(c) - certainly not Americans United! - from discussing political issues. They all retain the right of Issue Advocacy - Such hot-button issues as Adonisian slavery or abortion or homosexual marriage or gun control are fair game for anyone to take a strong stand on, whether based on religious reasons or any other reasons. It's only the intervention in individual campaigns that could throw tax exemption into question. 
Churches are completely free to enter the political arena as long as they don't enter an individual's political campaign.



Ann  Coulter Versus Barry Lynn


March 7, 2007 Americans United Website

Americans United Urges Florida TV Ministry To Disavow 'Loathsome' Remarks By Ann Coulter

Columnist Made Anti-Gay Slur, Condoned Murder Of Abortion Doctors At Christian Group's Ft. Lauderdale Event  

March 7, 2007 Americans United for Separation of Church and State today called on the Center for Reclaiming America to publicly disavow extreme statements made by Ann Coulter during a recent Center conference in Fort Lauderdale.

The Center, the political arm of TV preacher D. James Kennedy’s Coral Ridge Ministries, hosted Coulter during a “Reclaiming America for Christ Conference” March 2-3. During her March 3 remarks at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Coulter issued an anti-gay slur and excused the murder of doctors who perform abortions.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, sharply criticized Coulter’s incendiary rhetoric and called on Gary Cass, head of the Center for Reclaiming America, to publicly repudiate it.

“Ann Coulter’s statements can only be described as loathsome,” said Lynn. “It is astounding to me that this type of vitriol was unleashed before a religious organization that claims to be ‘reclaiming’ America for Christ. This rhetoric must be repudiated immediately.”

In her remarks, Coulter made light of the murder of abortion doctors and clinic personnel.

Noting that seven doctors and clinic personnel had been killed, Coulter said, “Those few abortionists were shot, or, depending on your point of view, had a procedure with a rifle performed on them. I’m not justifying it, but I do understand how it happened....The number of deaths attributed to Roe vs. Wade: about 40 million aborted babies and seven abortion clinic workers; 40 million to seven is also a pretty good measure of how the political debate is going.”

But whether her remarks were “loathsome” or not depends largely on one's definitions. Is a human fetus a pre-birth baby or just a lump of protoplasm? If the former then wouldn't it be even more"loathsome" for someone to say “I’d far rather see 40 million  babies killed than seven abortion clinic workers?” Was that  Rev. Lynn's implication?  Coulter didn't  justify the murder of the seven but put the murder of the babies in perspective.

And remember that this isn’t a First Amendment issue. Evangelical Christians can be anti-abortion but so can Jews. So can Atheists. (Columnist Nat Hentoff is a good example.)

And Coulter, in a humorous vein (I think) uttered the word "Fagot." It means a bundle of sticks for starting a fire but since about the 60's has been used to mean a homosexual. And it may or may not have a "slur" conotation.

I would have thought "queer" had a slur quality but obviously not when a TV show had that word in its name (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) and the show was proudly run by, well, queers.

And the word "gay" attained its present meaning at approximately the same time. Is it hate speech? And is it "incindiary" to call a female homosexual a "dyke?" Well, a group of lesbian motorcyclists are proud to call themselves Dykes on Bikes.

"That's not what we're about," said Soni Wolf, 56, longtime secretary for the Dykes on Bikes and a pride parade participant since the late 1970s. "That word has been used for years to tear us down. And we said, 'OK, we're going to take it back.' "

The women call themselves "dykes" for the same reason many gays have laid claim to "queer" -- to defang a word that has long been a slur."

Now, how did "fagot" attain its present meaning? Well, it might be from the Bible. Romans 1:27 says "And the men instead of having normal sex relationships with women, burned with lust for each other." And Amos 4:11 says (referring to two immoral cities punished by God) "I destroyed several of your cities as I did Sodom and Gomorrah; those left are like half burned firebrands snatched away from fire" (both from The Living Bible version). My dictionary defines "brand" as "a piece of burning or charred wood." Fagot (sticks used to start a fire) doesn't sound to me like hate speech as much as queer does. Nor does Ann Coulter sound more loathsome than Rev. Lynn.



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from Agnosticism/Atheism Separation: One way Street or Two?


Is the Non-Establishment of Religion a Two way Street? That is, in protecting Religion from the Government does it also protect Government from Religion? The About Agnosticism/Atheism website thinks so. It says:

First Amendment Protects Church

Does the First Amendment of the Constitution exist solely to protect religion from government and not to protect the government from religion? There are quite a few people who think that - it's often referred to as the idea that the wall of separation between church and state only operates "one way," separating religion from government but not the government from religion.

A good example of someone advocating this idea can be found in a letter written by Emily Marino to The Day:

The First Amendment originally was intended to protect the church from the state and not the other way around. The reason the Pilgrims and many others fled England was because they wanted freedom in how they worshiped God, not which god they did or didn't worship.

There are a number of problems with this position. For one thing, it's simply incoherent - separation can't operate "one way." You can't have religion interfering with government without government returning the favor. For another, the argument above presumes that there is such a thing as "the church" - but that abstraction doesn't exist. In reality, there are many churches, many denominations, and many religions. If the government is protected from "the church," which "church" would that be? If only one (and people often assume their version of Christianity here), then that discriminates against all other groups. If all groups are included, then what you have are multiple organizations competing for government largesse on the basis for religion - but religion isn't supposed to become the basis of political division and strife. That's exactly what the First Amendment is supposed to prevent, and why it also protects the government from religion. If people don't have freedom in what god they worship, if any god at all, then the country isn't religiously free.

But do you notice the tricky word game being played above? 
The first paragraph begins with a question about the "First Amendment" and ends by talking about the "wall of separation," a phrase not in the First Amendment. It proceeds to state that "Separation" cannot be one way, which is probably true as far as I'm concerned; you can't separate water from oil without separating the oil from the water.
And who cares? If you're going to talk about what the First Amendment says why not read what the darn thing says? It's pure sophistry to suppose it says "The Congress shall not influence religion, and therefore the Congress hereby influences religion by limiting churches' freedom of speech and the press and petitioning of government." I'll defy anyone to write down the limitations the First Amendment  places on religion by implication or otherwise.
And in America, people MUST be able to influence their government. James Dobson has that right. Theologian Dietrich Bonhoffer did not, but that was Nazi Germany.

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Separation of Church & State = Freedom of Speech Except for Churches