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.
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.