Religion in Society

Jesus's Own Traditional Admonition Being Cast Aside?

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Senate Staff Recommending a "Citizens United" decision for non-profits?

The recent US Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money for political candidates and elections is wanting to be imitated by several religious non-profits that hold an IRS-granted tax exemption known as a 501 (c) 3.

Ostensibly this is granted because the religious corporation has filed a claim of being engaged in charitable work. Such religious groups are allowed to speak and proselytize on issues but not for specific candidates.

Oklahoma has one church in particular, Fairview Baptist Church in Edmond, OK, whose pastor, Paul Blair, has chosen to make him and his church an example for challenging this current IRS prohibition against religious campaigning for candidates.

You can read here http://www.news9.com/global/story.asp?s=12983523 about the maneuvers Blair is taking to circumvent the First Amendment's prohibition of religious favoritism from government.

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You can read here http://tinyurl.com/2ccvnye the report from Senator Grassley's committee reporting the non-cooperation of several prominent religious corporations

Here is the latest press release from Americans United and its executive director, Barry Lynn concerning the Committee report.

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Grassley Investigation of TV Preachers Veers Off Course, Says Americans United

January 7, 2011

Senate Finance Committee Staffers Are Wrong To Recommend Scrapping Federal ‘No-Electioneering’ Rule For Non-Profits, Says Watchdog Group

A Senate Finance Committee investigation into several high-profile TV ministries went badly off track when staffers recommended that Congress repeal a federal ban on partisan politicking by churches and other non-profit groups, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) announced in 2007 that committee staff would investigate six TV ministries that might have been abusing their non-profit status. A staff memo delivered to Grassley yesterday reports on the findings, including lack of cooperation from four of the six ministries being examined.

But the report also includes a recommendation that the Congress do away with the federal tax law ban on partisan political activity by non-profit groups.

“I have to wonder what these Senate staffers could possibly be thinking with this breathtakingly wrong-headed suggestion,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “It’s a sign that this investigation has gone seriously off course.”

Lynn noted that the investigation got under way because of allegations that several high-profile TV preachers were abusing non-profit status by living lavishly while raking in millions tax-free every year. Issues of church-based politicking had not been raised during the investigation.

Lynn said if the ministries were abusing non-profit status, then more accountability and oversight might be in order. Yet Grassley’s staffers have recommended doing away with the “no electioneering” rule, which would only turn these same ministries loose in the world of partisan politics to do what they will with little or no oversight.

“If these multi-million-dollar ministries are already misusing their donations for personal gain, imagine how much more dangerous they would be operating in the world of partisan politics,” said Lynn. “I don’t want to see Pat Robertson and other TV preachers using their tax-exempt empires to give backing to favored candidates, and I don’t think most other Americans want that either.”

Under current federal law, all non-profit groups holding a 501(c)(3) tax exemption are forbidden to intervene in partisan elections. This ensures that money donated to these groups is used for charitable purposes, not political ones.

Scrapping this rule, Lynn said, would open the door to the politicization of America’s religious organizations and wreak havoc with campaign-finance reporting laws.