An Atheist state-church separation group today called for an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service into the activities of a Roman Catholic Bishop in Brooklyn, NY for possible violation of campaign and IRS regulations.
On Monday, The New York Times revealed that Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio praised Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito J. Lopez in a barrage of "robocalls" to voters. Lopez was key in defeating a bill that would have permitted victims of childhood sex abuse to file suit years after alleged molestation. The Roman Catholic Church has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars to settle or avoid lawsuits and protect clerical molesters. Mr. Lopez was supporting Working Families Party candidate Maritza Davila who came in second in a three way race.
In The New York Times piece, a prominent legal scholar warned that Bishop DiMarzio could have violated laws pertaining to electioneering by nonprofit religious groups. Dr. Ed Buckner, President of American Atheists, said that the bishop's robocalls "are another example of where Roman Catholic leaders are engaging in partisan campaigning in order to further their own social agenda and insulate themselves from the legal system. The income tax exemption that the bishop's parishioners get for supporting the church is one that should be denied if the church is going to engage in partisan electoral politics." Buckner added: "This is the bargain the church has entered in exchange for this exempt status, and the IRS must demand that the church obey the law like everyone else."
"If the head of the Diocese of Brooklyn, which includes an estimated 1.5 million Catholics, wanted to simply 'praise' an elected official, he could have done so on any day other than the one before a hotly-contested race." said Dave Silverman, Communications Director and Vice President of American Atheists. He said that religious groups are becoming bolder in possibly violating election laws. "We see growing evidence of this over issues like abortion and gay marriage," said Silverman. "But the Brooklyn Diocese has engaged in a blatant quid-pro-quo in supporting politicians who try to immunize the church from sex abuse litigation, and partisan candidates who agree with the church's political agenda."