Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, July 01, 2005

Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers

Recenlty reprinted with permission on the Episcopal News Service, here is the statement of Senator John Danforth (former Republican senator and Episcopal priest). It appeared in the 6/17/05 NY Times under the title "Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers." It is a lucid and thoughtful statement of Christians in America who are not part of the religious right.

My particular favorite passages:

"-We think that efforts to haul references of God into the public square, into schools and courthouses, are far more apt to divide Americans than to advance faith.
-Following a Lord who reached out in compassion to all human beings, we oppose amending the Constitution in a way that would humiliate homosexuals."

Here is the full text
http://www.ecusa.anglican.org/3577_63345_ENG_HTM.htm?menu=undefined

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

And yet, a majority of weekly church goers vote Republican regardless of denomination.

Churches are tax payer subsidized PACs. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

LTG, have you followed any of the legal challenges to the tax exempt status of churches? I know there have been a few. In fact, I think there was a conservative group in one of the Southern states that was suing black churches because they offered transport service to polling places. They claimed that this was political activity. It amounted to packing the polls in favor of Democrats, thus violating the rules for tax exemptions. I believe the Conservative group lost.

If I had the time and money, I'd love to sue the Sacred Heart Catholic Church where I grew up for distributing voter guides (i.e. those brochures that tell people how to vote) and exhorting the congregation from the pulpit to vote for only pro-life (i.e. Republican) candidates. And the refusal by some priests and Bishops to administer the Sacraments (i.e. Holy Eucharist) to Kerry and other pro-choice candidates amounts to political activity. What is the bright-line for such activity?

 

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

The Republicans like to equate the tax exempt status of Churches with that of labor unions. However, Churches are far more priviledged than any other charities. Not only are donations to Churches tax exempt despite their political activies, but Churches pay no property taxes either. Imagine not having to pay any property tax at all for your buildings and offices! That might give you a bit of an advantage in the money politics game. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that the law is all rather murky, as you can imagine. The IRS, believe it or not, makes an administrative ruling as to which institution is tax exempt, and it has a certain amount of discretion in doing so. It can be appealed, but the appeal tends to defer to the IRS. The fact that churches are tax free explains why there is often hostility to new churches by city councils, even surprisingly conservative ones. Part of the issue, I believe, is who gets the "voter guides." Sending them only to parishioners who already voluntarily pledge money to the institution is different from sending them to the neighborhood, and distinguishable from passing them out in church. The bottom line, of course, is that any longstanding traditional sort of church (like the Catholics) will be accorded tax exempt status unless they go significantly over the line (e.g., TV advertising) and then only if the IRS wants to start a huge fight. Driving voters to polls is never considered partisan activity, because there is (of course) no way to ensure which way they vote, even though it is a major part of "get out the vote" efforts.  

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

Thank you, LTG for the explanation. Most of is would agree that the true intent of these churches is to get the vote out for one candidate or a group of specific candidates. But, I suppose that you'd have to make the same rules apply for all non-profits.

RBR makes a good point about the type of taxes that these Churches avoid. Perhaps what we need to do is re-evaluate what a non-proft is. I believe there have been rumblings about it.

What is the justification for treating Churches differently from other non-profits? Why can't the Sierra Club, for instance, avoid property taxes? 

// posted by Anonymous

Anonymous said...

I'll raise another question:

What compelling interest does society have in encouraging religious expression more than other forms. That is what reason - other than partisan loyalty to particular forms of religiosity - is there for tax exempt status for churches at all?

Why should Churches be treated differently from other non-profit organizations? I think the answer to this question must be "they should not be treated differently."  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Dr. Strangelove said...

RxR: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

I would agree with you that churches were not deserving of special tax status if the second clause were not present. The First Amendment exempts Churches from a lot of legislation, and as a rule, I prefer that we interpret that amendment as broadly as possible. Yes, the tax exempt status bugs me, and it's a bit of a stretch to say that taxation harms religion, but I'm willing to accept it to make sure local tax policies are not used to keep out smaller churches that evangelicals might deem "undesirable."

Anonymous said...

But how does the absence of subsidy restrict the practice of religion? Also, the first amendment goes on to extend the same protections to "the right of people to peaceably assemble." Why shouldn't ALL non-profits get the tax exempt status. Where in the first amendment does it imply that religious assemblies are granted more protection than secular assemblies?

I think this gets to the heart of the theocratic agenda. Many religious people assert that to practice their religion, they must be allowed to work towards the conversion of non-believers and they must be allowed to do so in every corner of society - public and private. This trait is particularly strong among Christians and especially Evangelical Christians.

Madison and Jefferson themselves opposed the favors now routinely granted to churches.  

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

I refer you all back to my Post  about the US Supreme Court decisions relating to the 10 Commandments. RBR is correct that the mission is to Evangelize. In fact, many of them believe that if they don't, they are not going to get to heaven. The NPR radio program "On Point" addressed this very issue last night.

I have a hard time thinking about small churches needing tax breaks when today we have billion dollar megachurches like Robert Schular's Crystal Cathedral or Large TV empires like the Televangelists Network. And tax breaks never prevented little sects from getting started. And mind you, these megachurches are not just places if worship. They have hotels, parks, spas, etc. They are little religious colonies. Tell me how that feeds your religious needs and why should those businesses be considered tax exempt.

I agree with RBR. Why are Churches treated differently from other NGOs? Even Jesus said that you give to Ceaser what is Ceaser's and to God what is God's.


Bottom line: There is nothing that prevents people from worshiping in this country. No one will throw them in jail, as in China, for being Catholic. We have one of the most diverse religious cultures in the world. And no one had a problem with "In God We Trust" on our money until fundamentalists started making an issue of it. I never heard the Islamic community or the Buddahists complain about Christan symbols. Employers accomdated for religious holidays, etc.  

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

The tradition of not taxing churches comes from several sources. First, it comes from a period when Marshall delivered the chestnut, "the power to tax is the power to destroy." Modern conservatives, btw, deny that the power to tax means as much. Second, the context was that churches in many states were tax-supported until the 1840s (VA, Mass.) so the evil was to tax some churches to support others (the First Amendment did not apply to state governments until the 14th amendment and subsequent interpreting SC decisions, that Thomas STILL disagrees with).

Also, most non-profit groups can receive for at least federal tax exempt status.
From the IRS:
"The exempt purposes set forth in IRC Section 501(c)(3) are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and the prevention of cruelty to children or animals. The term charitable is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erection or maintenance of public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening of neighborhood tensions; elimination of prejudice and discrimination; defense of human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency."

ALSO the following are exempt from federal taxation:
§ 501(c)(1) - Corporations Organized Under Act of Congress (including Federal Credit Unions)
§ 501(c)(2) - Title Holding Corporations for Exempt Organization
§ 501(c)(11) - Teachers' Retirement Fund Associations
§ 501(c)(12) - Benevolent Life Insurance Associations, Mutual Ditch or Irrigation Companies, Mutual or Cooperative Telephone Companies, Etc.
§ 501(c)(13) - Cemetery Companies
§ 501(c)(14) - State Chartered Credit Unions, Mutual Reserve Funds
§ 501(c)(15) - Mutual Insurance Companies or Associations
§ 501(c)(16) - Cooperative Organizations to Finance Crop Operations
§ 501(c)(18) - Employee Funded Pension Trusts (created before June 25, 1959)
§ 501(c)(21) - Black Lung Benefit Trusts
§ 501(c)(22) - Withdrawal Liability Payment Funds
§ 501(c)(25) - Title Holding Corporations or Trusts with Multiple Parents
§ 501(c)(26) - State-Sponsored High-Risk Health Coverage Organizations
§ 501(c)(27) - State-Sponsored Worker's Compensation Reinsurance Organizations
§ 501(d) - Religious and Apostolic Associations
§ 501(e) - Cooperative Hospital Service Organizations
§ 501(f) - Cooperative Service Organizations of Operating Educational Organizations
§ 501(k) - Child Care Organizations
§ 521(a) - Farmers' Cooperative Associations

States are free to grant or deny their own exemptions as they please.
 

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

On Tuesday, the synod of the United Church of Christ voted to support gay marriage, becoming the first mainstream denomination to do so. It's nice to know that some moderate Christian soldiers are indeed marching onward. "God is still speaking."

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