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, November 14, 2008

The Double Standard for Political Churches and the Media

Hi Everyone,

A while ago, LTG pointed out that there is a double standard between how churches that make public political statements favoring (or appearing to favor) the left and those that open campaign for the right.  I suspect he was thinking of a church in LA (I think it was an Episcopalian church but LTG probably knows the details better than I) that was threatened with losing their tax free status because their pastor gave a sermon condemning war in general and the Iraq war in particular.  

Well, here is a rather routine and unsurprising story from Greenville, South Carolina (one of only two states with coastline on either the Atlantic, Pacific or Great Lakes to have voted for McCain).  This troublesome priest is telling his parishioners that they have sinned and face divine judgement if they had voted for Obama.  I think we can all guess how much risk there is that his church will lose its tax exempt status.

This isn't a big story because it is so unsurprising but I thought I would post about it because it supports that earlier comment by LTG so convincingly.  


The Law Talking Guy said...

Churches should be free to speak out on any issue. This is a free country. It is a shame that the income tax exemption for churches, which was not intended to muzzle them, clearly does so. Our pastor is always careful to make ritual comments and disclaimers that I know he would not do if he did not feel the need to do so to retain the tax exempt status.

I proposed before that all tax exempt institutions, charities, churches, etc., be exempt from tax only on those parts of their activities that are charitable or support those activities (like maintaining the buildings, etc.). If any money is spent on fundraising for political causes or what have you, that should be taxed. Then people are free to speak as they choose.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I think the solution LTG proposes isgood. While distinguishing between charitable activity and political activity is not always simple, we already deal with similar distinctions all over the place in the tax code.

I wonder... can we handle tax-deductible contributions the same proportional way? Right now if I give $100 to Equality California, none of that is tax deductible--yet if I give $100 to the Mormon Church, I think that is entirely deductible, right? Perhaps if the Mormon church spends 10% of its activity doing political stuff, those who donate to the Mormon church should only get 90% tax deduction.

The Law Talking Guy said...

I think Dr.S's solution is theoretically sound but too complicated. I would just make all these donations tax-deductible to the donor, and let the organization pay the taxes on it as income if it uses the money for non-exempt purposes.

Dr. Strangelove said...

I fail to see why this scheme is really any more complicated than the rest of the tax code :-)

And it does bother me that my contributions to liberal causes are taxed while people are actually given tax incentives to donate to conservative organizations. But anyway.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Dr.S- how would you know when filing out the tax forms what % to deduct when you don't know either for the immediately previous or the coming year what % of that money will be spent on political causes? You could base it on the last year's tax returns, but that would cause election year manipulation.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Why wouldn't we know the percentage to deduct? Companies should know that by January. Just have them publish it to the IRS website. If exact figures are an issue, we could just go in 10% increments or something.

Raised By Republicans said...

I agree with Dr. S. that you could do it based on reports from the organizations you donated to.

But it would introduce uncertainty at the time of the donation. The uncertainty alone would probably deter donations to organizations with mixed political and charitable activities. Churches would HOWL. Therefore it will never happen.