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Pastors Challenge Law, Endorse Candidates From Pulpit

Old 06-20-08, 08:10 AM
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Pastors Challenge Law, Endorse Candidates From Pulpit

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/Vote2...5198068&page=1

Few Americans would invite an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service, but that's exactly what Minnesota pastor Gus Booth wanted when he stood behind his pulpit and told his congregation God wanted them to vote Republican.

In an election where candidates openly discuss their faith and are regularly seen in churches, and a time when pastors' sermons lead the politics sections of newspapers, one might be excused for not knowing that it is illegal for a church to endorse or oppose a candidate for president.

But when Booth addressed the members of his Warroad Community Church one Sunday in May and told them, "If you are a Christian, you cannot support a candidate like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton for president," he very much knew he was violating the law. He even wrote a letter to the IRS explaining what he had said and challenging the tax collection agency to do something about it.


....


Other Pastors Join Booth

Booth is not the only pastor challenging the IRS this year.

The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian advocacy group based in Scottsdale, Ariz., is enlisting ministers around the country to endorse candidates from their churches' pulpits on Sept. 28.

"Pastors on that day will evaluate candidates in light of scripture," said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the group. "Our hope is that the IRS will initiate investigations and we can bring this into the federal courts."







Looks like people are looking for a fight.

Any thoughts from a legal point of view? I can kind of see their argument. But I wouldn't want to go to a church where the pastor is endorsing candidates.

The next sermon series my pastor is doing is called "Letters to the Next President". Should be interesting.
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Old 06-20-08, 08:15 AM
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If they officially want to support one specific party, let them pay some taxes. That's not a legal opinion, that's my opinion.
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Old 06-20-08, 08:17 AM
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I don't think the non-charitable part of church work should have tax-exempt status. That would solve this problem.
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Old 06-20-08, 08:18 AM
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If that's how they feel then start rendering unto Caesar like the rest of us.
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Old 06-20-08, 08:18 AM
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what would be the non-charitible part? it'd be hard to define.
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Old 06-20-08, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Venusian
what would be the non-charitible part? it'd be hard to define.
Aren't churches already registered as non-profits? Just make them form a non-profit for their charitable work and keep the church finances separate.
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Old 06-20-08, 08:23 AM
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http://www.irs.gov/charities/charita...163395,00.html

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.

Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.

On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.

The Internal Revenue Service provides resources to exempt organizations and the public to help them understand the prohibition. As part of its examination program, the IRS also monitors whether organizations are complying with the prohibition.
What's their basis for challenging this? If it's a 1st Amendment issue (either freedom of religion or freedom of speech), they don't have a leg to stand on. They can say or do whatever they want - if they're willing to pay taxes like the rest of us.
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Old 06-20-08, 08:25 AM
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If this pastor was endorsing Obama, not only would this be the lead story on Fox News for a week or so, but this thread would be on page 5 by now.
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Old 06-20-08, 08:30 AM
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Here's an interesting take on this:
<a href = "http://blog.coincidencetheories.com/?p=261"><b>Gus Booth fights for freedom of speech</a></b>

June 12, 2008 – 12:14 am by William Wallace

The Reverend Gus Booth of Warroad Community Church is taking a stand against government attempts to silence political speech from religious leadership, according to recent media reports.

IRS regulations prohibit preachers from speaking for or against a political candidate from the pulpit.

But that did not stop Reverend Booth from urging his congregation to vote against B. Hussein Obama.

Booth even notified Americans United for Church and State Separation, who promptly reported him to the IRS.

Ironically, when clergy are bribed via IRS regulations from speaking on politics, they become tools of the state, promoting the status quo and the predominant two party system through their silence.

In an upcoming election in which we get to choose between left wing and left wing, I’d welcome a little extra political speech.

The current prior restraints on political speech from the pulpit benefit the status quo, and fly in the face of freedom of speech, as well as freedom of religion.
So being tax exempt means you are taking bribes from the government? That's an odd perspective on taxation.
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Old 06-20-08, 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
If this pastor was endorsing Obama, not only would this be the lead story on Fox News for a week or so, but this thread would be on page 5 by now.
from the article, it looks like there was already an investigation into a church suporting him
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Old 06-20-08, 08:32 AM
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Originally Posted by Tracer Bullet
Aren't churches already registered as non-profits? Just make them form a non-profit for their charitable work and keep the church finances separate.
i'm saying its hard to separate "charitable" work from church work. Would sunday school be considered charitable? What if its done for inner city kids and they feed them along with teaching them?
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Old 06-20-08, 08:35 AM
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Everyone knows that if Jesus were alive today he'd be a Republican.
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Old 06-20-08, 08:37 AM
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I really don't think churches should be endorsing specific candidates at all. That being said, I don't see any difference between endorsing a candidate and having them speak at your church.
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Old 06-20-08, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Venusian
i'm saying its hard to separate "charitable" work from church work. Would sunday school be considered charitable? What if its done for inner city kids and they feed them along with teaching them?
If anyone can come up with rules for this, the IRS can.

My opinion would be that if the charitable work includes any mandatory religious component, it can't be considered non-taxable. Feeding inner cities kids during Sunday school, taxable. Feeding them with no Sunday school, non-taxable.
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Old 06-20-08, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Bandoman
Everyone knows that if Jesus were alive today he'd be a Republican.
Long hair, bearded guy, belonged to the carpenter's union, and held rallies promoting peace. Sounds like a Republican to me!
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Old 06-20-08, 08:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Bandoman
Everyone knows that if Jesus were alive today he'd be a Republican.
Nah, Jesus would form his own party. The Jesus party. It would be kind of like the Republican party, but less popular.
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Old 06-20-08, 08:40 AM
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Goes well with the book I'm reading now: Jesus For President
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Old 06-20-08, 08:44 AM
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Anyone else think that Pastor Booth is nothing but an attention whore?
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Old 06-20-08, 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
Anyone else think that Pastor Booth is nothing but an attention whore?
Probably. I generally have little respect for Pastors that try to make political points and do not focus on teaching their churches (their primary responsibility).
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Old 06-20-08, 08:52 AM
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the fact that he's a republican delegate doesn't really make me think he has altruistic motives either
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Old 06-20-08, 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by wendersfan
Anyone else think that Pastor Booth is nothing but an attention whore?
Perhaps.

I think that it is a direct result of the light shed on Rev. Wright. Booth is probably trying to bring the issue of political endorsements from the pulpit to the forefront so that it can be addressed. It seems like when it is a liberal endorsement, there is no outcry. People were offended by what Rev. Wright said, but not offended that he was using his pulpit for political purposes.

So maybe if someone on the conservative side of things were to do the same thing, the issue will be finally be addressed.
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Old 06-20-08, 09:04 AM
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Originally Posted by sracer
People were offended by what Rev. Wright said, but not offended that he was using his pulpit for political purposes.
Rev. Wright's (misguided) rants for social justice =/ endorsing a specific candidate.
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Old 06-20-08, 09:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Bandoman
Everyone knows that if Jesus were alive today he'd be a Republican.
(1) Jesus is alive today.
(2) Jesus clearly teaches that His Kingdom was not of this world.
(3) Jesus opposes sin in all political parties, including many sins publicly embraced by some political parties.
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Old 06-20-08, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Tracer Bullet
If anyone can come up with rules for this, the IRS can.

My opinion would be that if the charitable work includes any mandatory religious component, it can't be considered non-taxable. Feeding inner cities kids during Sunday school, taxable. Feeding them with no Sunday school, non-taxable.
That is because you believe in mandatory, enforced charity in which the state confiscates property to redistribute as it sees fit (thus indebting the recipients).

Evidently you feel that "mandatory" charity is only objectionable (or taxable) if it comes from a religious organization.

Perhaps the local/state/federal governments should tax themselves and return that portion to taxpayers (in order to be consistent in its application of its philosophy).
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Old 06-20-08, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by VinVega
If they officially want to support one specific party, let them pay some taxes. That's not a legal opinion, that's my opinion.
Do you hold that same position for black churches that have been 'endorsing' candidates for years?
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