I recently struck up a facebook "conversation" with a family member.  I shared a link to an article talking about the catholic leaders blatant use of the church to spread their political agenda.  I commented claiming that the members of the church need to start questioning this practice and, if not, the church should be taxed since it is clearly not following the law. 

He stated that if the IRS took them to court, the court would uphold its right to free speech "for fear of improperly advocating for one Church over another and also in light of the recent Supreme Court case on free speech and money in politics, under the right of Churches to speak broadly on political issues like other non-profits."

I know that the IRS law is clear in black and white when it comes to tax exempt organizations, but does he have a point?

Is there really no clear answer because of these new laws, combined with the Internal revenue services inability, or unwillingness to actually enforce its existing laws?

!!

Views: 82

Comment by kris feenstra on October 9, 2012 at 2:54pm

Does he have a point? Not in principle.  The fact that some institutions flaunt the law and get away with it does not mean that the law is not still in effect. My understanding is that there was an issue with the auditing process, which was previously challenged and defeated in a court of law not too long ago. While the IRS may not be able to enforce the law effectively without fixing the audit process, the law itself still stands in principle. To argue the contrary would be like saying that speeding is legal whenever the police aren't watching.

If your family member wants to make a free speech argument, he'd have to connect the dots. If your quote is direct, he has to clarify what he means by 'non-profits'. Not all NPOs operate under the same tax status, so if he wants to use other NPOs as an example, he'd have to demonstrate that they are covered under the same exemptions. But again, even if he can do so, the fact that they have escaped the law doesn't mean that the law is invalid. He'd have to show some precedent where removing a tax exemption was legally considered a limitation on free speech. Personally, I don't see how it is. That tax exemption is a privilege, not a right. If churches want to exercise full political free speech the solution is simple: pay their bloody taxes. 

Comment by Dr.Grixis on October 10, 2012 at 8:26am

Freedom of speech in itself is fine, it's one of the most important principles in any democratic society. However tax exempt organizations profit from the taxes that we all pay, by operating in the framework of society that has been build with society's money.

Thus, if an organization has the privilege of not having to pay taxes, in return they have to accept that they are supported by the whole of the political spectrum and should therefor not pertain in specifics in regards to political affairs. 

The right to freedom of speech is something that any church can obtain by letting go of their tax exempt status. Say like the rest of us, pay like the rest of us.

Comment by Unseen on October 10, 2012 at 9:15am

There is a broad church-based act of defiance in the works where thousands of church pastors will make a specific recommendation (for Romney more often than not). They'll be daring the IRS to come after them so that they can get a case before the Supreme Court to decide which right takes precedence. Read about it here

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