Church and State

I don’t much like making bold political predictions, but I’ve got one in the 26th LD: Republican legislative candidate Ronald Boehme will soon return a $300.00 contribution. Either that, or the Port Orchard Church of the Nazarene may soon see a challenge to its IRS tax exempt status.

Port Orchard Church of the Nazarene political contribution

Of course, churches are free to contribute whatever they want to political campaigns — they’re just not free to do so while continuing to enjoy tax exempt status as a religious institution. The rationale for this legal restriction should be obvious to folks on both sides of the political aisle: if you can claim a deduction for a donation to your church, and then your church can turn around and give that money to a political candidate or campaign, well then that’s like getting a tax deduction for a political contribution. And that’s just plain wrong.

And it’s such a basic violation of IRS code that you’d think churches would be damn wary about any perception of impropriety. But apparently not, for a quick search of the word “church” in the Public Disclosure Commission’s contribution’s database found a number of similar violations in the 2006 election cycle alone.

The Cornerstone Bible Church of Enumclaw gave $500.00 to LetTheVotersDecide.net — Tim Eyman’s committee to repeal the state’s gay civil right’s bill — while the North Shore Baptist Church of Bothell reported $300.00 of in-kind contributions to the campaign. Meanwhile, the Lynnwood Church of the Nazarene gave $150.00 to the Snohomish County Republican Central Committee. Naughty, naughty.

And it’s not just Republican campaigns and causes that are stealing from the collection basket. Democratic State Senator Paull Shin reports receiving $1350.00 in contributions from the Korean Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth NJ. What’s up with that?

I know it might be tough on Boehme to have $300.00 less to spend on political consultants (his number one expense,) but look on the bright side — the Port Orchard Church of the Nazarene will now have $300.00 more to spend on saving souls and feeding and clothing the poor. And from my limited reading of the New Testament, I vaguely remember that charity, not politics, was supposed to be the church’s primary work.

Comments

  1. 1

    The Black Hand spews:

    Tax exempt churches are allowed by allow to give up to 5% of their yearly budget to political activities. If you liberals knew anything about the law you would know that. But again thats why you are liberals you believe in making up the law as you go.

  2. 3

    spitintheocean spews:

    Isn’t it about time to call for regime change in Alaska , not nothing subtle , let’s invade them and demand they keep sending oil to Washington state refineries . Take no prisoners , let’s convert the blue eyed arabs to who their real masters are , Seattle politicians . We’re tired of these disruptions in our oil supply and the steep prices .
    Think of it , the mayor could build a tunnel and a viaduct with all the revenues . the gov could implement universal health care and maybe Maria could lead the charge , afterall she knows who the “bad guys ” are and which iceberg they are hiding behind .

  3. 4

    Doctor JCH Kennedy spews:

    After the next Congress is sworn in next January, Georgia’s 4th Congressional District will be represented by a black Democrat who:

    May well turn out to be an effective voice for the furtherance and implementation of the Democrat big-government, high-tax, income redistributionist, anti-individualistic, weaken America agenda.

    Will almost certainly spend the next two years as a congressional pariah with no effective voice whatsoever in congressional affairs; a person who can be counted on to flare up and completely embarrass her party; a person who can be exhibited for the next two years as the face of the Democrat Party.
    Your choice. Be a little pragmatic here. Put the emotions aside. The right needs a barking moonbat like Democrat idiot Cynthia McKinney in office, rather than someone who might actually garner some respect inside the Beltway. Besides … she’s just wonderful material for talk radio.

  4. 5

    karl spews:

    brian, the dems, as noted earlier, have been taking donations too.

    throttle back the moral superiority

  5. 6

    sven spews:

    so a question Goldy.

    Should all the churches that let politicians do speeches at their churches have to report that as an in kind contribution?

    And should they lose their status as well?

  6. 7

    skagit spews:

    So, why aren’t dem candidates following republicans into every church in which the repubs speak? What better way to negate some of the rhetoric?

  7. 8

    ArtFart spews:

    Really, Goldy….

    After almost six years of having its hierarchy stuffed with Bush acolytes, you can’t possibly harbor any expectation that the IRS is playing straight.

  8. 9

    Richard Pope spews:

    I think Willis is right. I believe a church can give a limited amount of money and resources to influence legislation or promote ballot measures. But they can’t give a penny to candidates for public office without violating their tax-exempt status.

  9. 10

    spews:

    Well, as far as initiatives go, traditional “non-profits” (read 501(c)3 organizations) are allowed to work on/give money to initiative campaigns (as part of their “direct lobbying” budget allowed under the code). Assuming that church’s get their tax-exempt status from the 501(c)3 code, then they would be allowed to give a limited amount of time/resources directly to an initiative campaign.

    Now the gifts to political parties and candidates seems totally weird, imho.

  10. 11

    sven spews:

    the end result is the same isnt it? If a church provides a single candidate access to its congregation, they have effectively offered them support and aid in their campaign.

    If we draw the line, that one should be drawn too, right?

  11. 13

    proud leftist spews:

    A Christian church that would donate money to the Snohomish Party Republican Party is unacquainted with the Gospel. Perhaps the Lynnwood Church of the Nazarene members who approved the political donation should spend some time reading and discussing Matthew 25 rather than discussing politics.

  12. 14

    Doctor JCH Kennedy spews:

    The commie libs didn’t want an oil pipeline in Alaska in the first place. Shouldn’t they be happy the line is shut down for a few weeks??? But nooooooooooooooooo!! They bitch when it’s moving oil, and they bitch when it is shut down. Typical coomie lib idiot dumb ass Democrats [JDB]!!!

  13. 15

    Rep. Toby Nixon spews:

    This Congressional Research Service report on the topic of political activities by non-profit organizations is very complete. It is also very clear that churches shall not contribute to political candidates. However, a wide range of activities short of direct contributions or endorsements are permitted, including voter guides, candidate forums, etc.

  14. 16

    John Barelli spews:

    “I don’t belong to an organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” – Will Rogers.

    Wow. Once again we find ourselves complaining bitterly about the tactics of the other side, only to discover that we’ve done the same thing. Of course, it wasn’t really the same, because we’re the “good guys”, upholding truth, justice and the American Way, while those other folks are evil, cruel nasty and vicious.

    I don’t claim to be a tax lawyer, and I do have issues with any church making direct contributions to any candidate. They’re the same issues that I have with labor unions, trade organizations or any other group that uses donations gathered for other purposes to support candidates. If those groups want to organize a separate, voluntary fund to help candidates, then I may (or may not) contribute.

    Side note – Before anyone goes off about my comments on unions, I should point out that in my business, I have little choice about belonging to a trade organization that routinely endorses right-wing candidates. I’d get very angry if they started using my dues to financially support them as well. Therefore, I can sympathize with union members that object to dues money going to candidates, even candidates that I like.

    There are folks on both sides that use religion as an excuse or a basis of support for their own personal philosophy. Ann Coulter and Rev. Jackson are both Christians. Heck, Presidents Clinton and Bush are both United Methodists (as is yours truly, just for full disclosure). My denomination’s views on this are a matter of public record.

    http://archives.umc.org/interi.....8;mid=5591

    Churches can, and should speak to matters of public policy. The pulpit seems an entirely appropriate place to speak of matters such as war, poverty and injustice, just to name a few. But if we can speak out against war, then we cannot ask the law to punish those that speak out for it. God knows what is in their hearts (far better than we do) and will deal with them accordingly.

    But before we start to yell about some church donating to a candidate, let’s check out our own house. It seems to me that even with the volume of rhetoric that some of the right-wing denominations put out, most Christian denominations, along with most Jews, Muslims, Bhuddists, Hindus, Wiccans, and other faiths are all preaching that we should abstain from violence, love our neighbors (even the ones we don’t like), care for the sick and downtrodden, and generally look after others. Hmmm. Sounds pretty left-wing to me.

  15. 17

    freek spews:

    Troll @ 3 says with no sense of irony, “May well turn out to be an effective voice for the furtherance and implementation of the Democrat big-government, high-tax, income redistributionist, anti-individualistic, weaken America agenda.”

    You say it like it’s a bad thing, but isn’t that exactly what the administration you support has done in the last six years?

    Government has grown, taxes have gone up (and will continue), the middle class shoulder more of the burden than the wealthy, if you disagree you’re a traitor, and America has no pull in the international community.

    It’d be funny if it weren’t true.

    PS if you don’t think taxes have been raised, go back to economics 101 and ask what happens when expenses outstrip revenues.

  16. 18

    Richard Pope spews:

    Goldy,

    Why aren’t you talking about the LARGEST “church” contribution listed on the PDC website?

    $5,000.00 donated on 06/18/2003 to Beverly Grant for Pierce County Superior Court Judge from St John Baptist Church, 2001 South J Street, Tacoma, WA 98405? Grant was appointed by Locke in 2003, and elected in 2003 and re-elected in 2004.

    This same church also donated $600.00 on 08/23/2002 to Janis Martin, who lost a Democrat primary contest for District 27, Position 1 in the state House of Representatives.

    The next largest church monetary contribution to a candidate (besides the Shinn contributions you mentioned) appears to have been $500.00 from the St Michael Ethiopian Church to Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels’ re-election campaign on 07/14/2005.

  17. 19

    spews:

    Well, maybe.

    The Church could have an LLC or other business entity that does its political work, and a separate tax-exempt entity that is its church. The full title might be “port orchard church … drug rehabilitation center LLC” and it might be legal.

  18. 20

    proud leftist spews:

    Many of the evangelical churches (with important exceptions) mistake political positions for religion. They are first and foremost ideological organizations that try to wrap all their positions around Christian doctrine, no matter how much of a stretch might be required. Some of their efforts to justify their political positions by citation to the Gospel would be amusing if the consequences were not so, well, consequential. To wit, their efforts to justify capital punishment, tax cuts, gun rights, and preemptive war, as well as their denial of global warming, fall into this category. Indeed, even their effort to overcome American government ignores fundamental biblical precepts concerning separation of church and state. Respecting separation of church and state protects not only our political system from religion, but religion from political interference. People like Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed, and James Dobson just do not get this most important point.

  19. 21

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Fundie churches are nothing but political committees. They sholdn’t have tax-exempt status in the first palce.

  20. 22

    howcanyoubePROUDtobeaKennedy spews:

    kerry campaigned in churches… and held photo ops doing so:
    During last year’s presidential election, not only did Democratic candidate John Kerry repeatedly campaign at churches, he even quoted scripture to criticize President Bush. While quite literally preaching from the pulpit, Sen. John Kerry opened his Bible to take a shot at “our present national leadership,” lecturing the congregation, “The Scriptures say, what does it profit, my brother, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?”

    gore campaigned in churches:
    According to an Oct. 15, 2000 report in The New York Times, Gore participated in a conference call with African-American ministers Oct. 14, 2000 during which he discussed the need for their support of your campaign. The Times story states, “With the presidential election in a dead heat, Vice President Al Gore sought to mobilize his campaign’s ‘get out the vote’ drive today by imploring black preachers to push for his election from their pulpits.”

    The Times says Gore told pastors, “I’m asking you in your sermons to do the work of the Lord here on earth. I ask for your help in getting that message out urgently tomorrow.”

    clinton campaigned/campaigns in churches:
    Sen. Hillary Clinton, back when she was still First Lady, once visited a Florida church to push her disastrous health care plan during the service. Around the same time, Sen. Clinton actually had a meeting with several Roman Catholic cardinals and bishops to tout her health plan. …Bill Clinton barnstormed the country’s churches in his 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns and in 2000 for then-Vice President Al Gore and for his wife’s New York senatorial campaign. Hillary Clinton herself touched down in half a dozen churches in just one day during that Senate race.

    feinstein campaigned in churches

    carter campaigned in churches

    The Internal Revenue Service supposedly bans tax-exempt organizations such as churches from politicking, but Jackson and other Democrats have violated that regulation for decades with impunity.

    And during the last presidential campaign, the Democratic National Committee hired a Kentucky minister as “director of religious outreach.” Unfortunately for Democrats, she resigned less than two weeks after taking the job when it was revealed that she favored removing the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.

    Is this the kind of separation of church and state that liberals and the elite media so proudly stand up for?

  21. 25

    sven spews:

    Interesting report, thanks for posting it.

    The wording on parts of it is vague, but concerning the speaking issue, you are right, that is expressly allowed…provided equal time is given to opposing candidates.

    So any church that denies equal time would be in violation.

  22. 26

    Carl Olson spews:

    It always intrigues me to read justifications of illegal behavior predicated on past wrong doing. Ultimately we are a nation of laws and should always be striving to put that into practice. This comment was posted without one instance of namecalling or the invoking of expletives.

  23. 27

    Brian A.Sayrs spews:

    You know, I was always under the impression that conservatives were being cynical when they said that money is speech, but this thread has made it clear that they actually don’t know the difference! It’s as if a Democrat could say something useful and logical, and all the Republican has to do is shake a wad of $20’s and say “So, there!” and that passes as an argument.

    Money is money. No, it’s not protected under the First Amendment. Speech is speech. It is protected by the First Amendment. Religion is also protected by the First Amendment. I wonder: perhaps conservatives also don’t know the difference between cash and religion.

    If you wonder why the Democrats are doing what they’re doing, and why what we’re doing is legal and what Republicans are doing is illegal, then perhaps it’s because we have enough respect for the Constitution to actually learn what it means.

  24. 28

    proud leftist spews:

    15
    Communication between politicians and people of faith is both healthy and inevitable. You don’t get the distinction between communication and religious entities endorsing and contributing financially to politicians.