January 29, 2015

Religious and secular advocates urge IRS to clarify rules on political endorsements from the pulpit

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Michael Batts, who chaired a commission of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability that recommended Internal Revenue Service policy changes, speaks at the National Press Club on Jan. 29, 2015. Behind him is Ezra Reese, a member of the drafting committee of Public Citizen’s Bright Lines Project. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

Michael Batts, who chaired a commission of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability that recommended Internal Revenue Service policy changes, speaks at the National Press Club on Jan. 29, 2015. Behind him is Ezra Reese, a member of the drafting committee of Public Citizen’s Bright Lines Project. Religion News Service photo by Adelle M. Banks

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WASHINGTON (RNS) Current IRS rules, dating to 1954, permit clergy to address issues but prohibit candidate endorsements. But those rules are routinely broken with little or no consequence.

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  • The problem is having incipient tax assessments against corporations with no owners and often very limited revenue streams, assessment from which you ‘exempt’ them through demonstrations of good conduct on their part.

    An alternative would be to have corporations pay a fee in return for limited liability equal to a small stock-dividend issued to a government trust. The trustees would be expected to sell the stake within a decent interval, either on the equity markets or via online auction. Philanthropic entities, having no owners, would be exempt.

    An assessment on philanthropies for continued limited liability status would be tagged to the compensation of their officers. You could have figures for expected compensation for the chief executive, the most handsomely compensated 8 employees, and the most handsomely compensated 50, including therein the compensation of any first degree relations of such on the payroll. For small philanthropies, you could assess the chief executive and the most highly compensated 15% of the employees. You’d have a figure for expected compensation derived from compensation per worker in the larger economy and the number of FTE the philanthropy employs. As long as a philanthropy kept its compensation in line, they’d be exempt from any liability other than a 3-digit processing fee and everyone would be free of finicky controversies over what is and is not permissible conduct and shizzy discretionary decisions and bureaucratic gamesmanship by the Lois Lerners of this world.

  • If churches want to endorse political candidates they should give up their tax exempt status.

  • Why? Why is a ‘candidate endorsement’ some sort of bright line? And what is it you’re taxing, Mr. Doerr? Their corporate income? They do not have any other than some additions to their endowment (and the principal is commonly shrinking in real terms). Consumption? The revenue streams from church gift shops and yard sales are trivial and all sorts of exemptions from final sales taxes quite normal. Their property? Church property is highly illiquid and true assessed value in most circumstances would be for the raw land.

  • Blaise Sonnier

    AMEN!!!!!!!!

  • The hundreds of thousands of churches in the US enjoy exemption from federal and state taxes — on the condition that they not endorse candidates. That’s the law. If they wish to become political operators they should be willing to give up their tax exemptions. The vast majorities of churches do adhere to the law.

  • He says, reciting his talking points. C’mon buddy. You’ve been writing shizzy letters to the editor on these topics for 30 years. You can do better than that.

  • Huey

    I prefer church and state to be separate. Our freedom depends on it. I hate politicians telling me how pray or clergy telling me how to vote.

  • Larry

    Art, you cretin. You are just flinging poo because you don’t have anything worthwhile to say in response. Classy as always.

  • Chaplain Martin

    I agree with you Huey. Our freedom does depend on separation of church and state, also on freedom of speech. As a minister, if I believe and an injustice is about to be done, or has been by government officials, elected or not I should speak out. Telling the congregation who to vote for in a church service or on a list handed out prior, during or after a service serves to discredit the whole meaning of church and worship.

  • Patti

    Times have changed even though the bible has not.

    Verse 2 Kings 12:15 talks about how honest the temple was and they were not even required to account for their workers pay. (Israel pays their Rabbis to conduct the law of Torah which is the first five chapters of the bible.)

    The bible talks about church and state separating and what happens. We don’t need prosecuting of churches, ruining of businesses or slandering of people. (Especially if something is already accepted as state law; however, nonprofits are federal law.) In the future, if the state laws change, it should reflect events after the date and not before the law change. Otherwise, all of the nation will be in uproar.

    Man has created all the extra laws that are not from the bible; however the United States was created from the words of the bible and some federal buildings were previously synogogues.

    Christians do know the truth to the words of Revelation 1:7. Christians need to stand up for our rights in this country.

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