Gay Activists Threaten Church Tax-Exempt Status
DLaycock at mail.law.utexas.edu
Thu Jun 3 09:10:58 PDT 2004
I agree that the absolute limit on candidate advocacy is a
problem. Of course it is a problem for all other non-profits as well, and
the usual solution is to set up a political affiliate. The one other way
in which churches are differently situated is the speech of the
clergy. When the church addresses a moral issue, including the positions
of competing candidates on that moral issue, it is very different for the
spiritual leader to make the statement versus the head of the 501(c)(4)
affiliate making the statement. I agree with Marty's analysis of current
law, but the restriction on the speech of the clergy is a constitutional
At 10:52 AM 6/3/2004 -0400, you wrote:
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>The "susbtantial" limit on lobbying does provide ample breathing room for
>most religious institutions, including any bona fide house of worship I
>could imagine. And there's probably no limit on religious groups'
>advocacy re moral issues, where the advocacy isn't also lobbying.
>But there's no such latitude re advocacy for candidates, and we are, after
>all, in an election year. So I expect that the candidate part of the
>limit will be asserted frequently in the months to come, and it could well
>represent a meaningful threat.
>From: religionlaw-bounces at lists.ucla.edu
>[mailto:religionlaw-bounces at lists.ucla.edu]On Behalf Of marc stern
>Sent: Thursday, June 03, 2004 9:44 AM
>To: 'Law & Religion issues for Law Academics'
>Subject: RE: Gay Activists Threaten Church Tax-Exempt Status
>There really is nothing to the threat. Churches are free to take stands on
>political issues provided they do not spend a substantial amount on these
>activities. The late Dean Kelly obtained an internal IRS memo which
>indicted that insubstantial was between 5-20% of an organization s budget.
>The document was informal and would not bind the IRS, but it describes a
>fairly safe harbor. Non-church groups can opt for a different and more
>predictable set of rules, but at the behest of churches which then
>insisted that the government could not stop them from advocating for
>legislation at the expense of exemption, churches were not offered the option.
>From: religionlaw-bounces at lists.ucla.edu
>[mailto:religionlaw-bounces at lists.ucla.edu] On Behalf Of Francis Beckwith
>Sent: Thursday, June 03, 2004 8:16 AM
>To: Religion Law Mailing List
>Subject: Gay Activists Threaten Church Tax-Exempt Status
>Just got this from a friend. It is published by Focus on the Family, a
>conservative Christian outfit in Colorado Springs.
>June 1, 2004
>Church's Tax-Exempt Status Threatened
>by Steve Jordahl, correspondent
>Pro-homosexual group lodges complaint with the state against a Montana
>church that aired the "Battle for Marriage" satellite broadcast.
>A Montana church, one of hundreds across the country to broadcast a
>pro-marriage TV special on May 23, has been threatened by a gay-activists
>group with removal of its tax-exempt status.
>Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church in Helena showed congregants "The Battle
>for Marriage" a video simulcast featuring Focus on the Family Chairman Dr.
>James Dobson and other pro-family leaders and circulated a petition at the
>event calling for a state constitutional amendment supporting traditional
>marriage. Those actions rankled the gay-activist group Montanans for
>Family and Fairness, which lodged a complaint with the state's Commission
>of Political Practices.
>The complaint alleges that what the church did "may & have implications
>for an organization's tax status." The commission has said it will
>investigate, but Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) attorney Gary McCaleb said
>the argument is without merit.
>"The letter that was sent out by these far-left activists is outrageous,"
>McCaleb said. "I think it's defamatory, and it's certainly an intolerant
>effort to suppress free speech."
>Canyon Pastor B.G. Stumberg said his church is not intimidated. The
>commission is unable to affect a church's tax-exempt status on its own,
>but a decision against the church is the first step in stripping a
>congregation of its tax benefits.
>"I don't think it's scaring us at all," he said. "It's sort of galvanized
>us, in one sense, (and) I think everybody's sort of saying, 'OK, let's go.' "
>The letter was also sent to several hundred other Montana churches, an
>obvious attempt to make them think twice about addressing the issue of gay
>marriage. McCaleb said churches should press ahead, anyway.
>"You certainly don't convert your church into a political committee," he
>explained, "when you speak out in favor of marriage."
>The ADF, McCaleb added, would be happy to consult with any church that has
>Copyright © 2004 Focus on the Family
>All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
>(800) A-FAMILY (232-6459)
><http://www.family.org/welcome/aboutfof/a0013445.cfm> | Reprint Requests
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