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a violation of church and state???(20 posts)

a violation of church and state???ClydeTri
Aug 11, 2003 9:29 AM

Article details about how Al Sharpton delivered a political speech at a church...yall refresh my memories, doesnt that violate the church's non-profit status? Sharpton is a candidate for the presidency as a democrat..I seem to remember that churches and other non-profits can have their non-profit status pulled for such things...
Not saying a politician cant speak in a church, but, while he is actively campaigning????
could be problemDougSloan
Aug 11, 2003 9:41 AM
It very well could jeopardize the non-profit status. I recall a similar issue in a campaign I was associated with in Missouri. It's a no-no.

Not so much a "church and state" issue, though, as it is election and tax law.

I don't think your memory is correct,TJeanloz
Aug 11, 2003 9:42 AM
I find it hard to believe that a group could lose non-profit status for sponsoring political discussion. Universities do it all the time.
Aug 11, 2003 9:50 AM

"Section 501(c)(3) of federal tax law prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office."

I'm confident, despite the biased source, that this is true. Don't have time to research.

What does "intervening" mean? (nm)TJeanloz
Aug 11, 2003 9:52 AM
Good question. I don't think listening to a speechOldEdScott
Aug 11, 2003 10:04 AM
amounts to intervening on behalf or opposed. If the church then proceeded to take overt action, that would be a different matter.
Aug 11, 2003 10:06 AM
I think it means actively supporting, sponsoring, permitting activities at the church, etc. I know of one candidate who got into trouble, actually almost got his church into trouble, when he held a fundraising dinner at his church.

I have no idea about the college issue, except to note that public schools are not 501(c)(3) organizations, but rather are public entities or subdivisions of them. Private schools are likely 501(c)(4)? organizations, maybe not sujbect to the same rules. Also, permitting a forum for all candidates to speak, as in a debate, might be ok.

bigger question..would the gubmint' go after....ClydeTri
Aug 11, 2003 10:50 AM
Anbody think the government would go after a predominately black church and pull its nonprofit status? Want to buy a bridge?
Isn't Ashcroft a racist authoritarian?DougSloan
Aug 11, 2003 10:55 AM
I guess being a religious right-winger probably cancels that out, though, right?

would federal or state have jurisidiction over that? nmClydeTri
Aug 11, 2003 10:59 AM
Certainly an authoritarian. Don't know about racist. nmOldEdScott
Aug 11, 2003 11:28 AM
Shouldn't an AG be an authoriarian by nature? nmClydeTri
Aug 11, 2003 11:57 AM
Uhhhh .... No? nmOldEdScott
Aug 12, 2003 9:49 AM
he's too busy cracking down on porn at the moment. nmrufus
Aug 11, 2003 4:26 PM
legal sourcesDougSloan
Aug 11, 2003 10:13 AM
I've seen worsetorquer
Aug 11, 2003 10:57 AM
Not to bash the Catholic church, but they have inserted themselves in the politics of the abortion debate for decades; I believe they get around around the election-law issues by advocating a cause, not endorsing candidates. It gets a little tricky when they "instruct" Catholic politicians to follow church teachings or else. I can't wait to see what happens with the gay marriage issue.

The evangelical protestants that Bush has courted play a similar game, perhaps with less sophistication but with similar results. Large religious groups, especially when they align themselves with the party in power, are pretty much untouchable.

Sharpton's speech, however, (at least as quoted in the article) seems to advocate political involvement in general, rather than his own candidacy. Sounds like one of his more subdued outings.

As far as the doctrine of separation of church and state, I don't think the founders expected the religious to ignore politics; the founders' concern was not putting the coercise power of the government at the disposal of any one favored religion. In other words, government was supposed to keep its hands off religious matters, but I think they realized it would go against human nature to expect people moved by religious principles not to try to influence government to act in accordance with those principles.

It's a narrow and difficult path, I admit.
No way.Matno
Aug 12, 2003 3:44 AM
First of all, supporting Al Sharpton doesn't count as either religion OR politics...

However, there is a bill that was recently introduced, seeking to repeal this particular law. Personally, I think it's a good idea. While I realize that there will be some who take unfair advantage of "religious" status to promote solely political agendas, I also think it is just plain wrong for religions to be restricted in expressing political views/support. The very nature of many laws and social/political issues demands that religions take a stand. Not allowing them to express those beliefs is wrongful gov't interference with the freedom of religion. Sometimes you have to protect the nuts in order to protect the rights of everybody. (i.e. even the ACLU should be protected, in spite of the fact that they rarely, if ever, support anything good from a moral standpoint).
it's a tax lawDougSloan
Aug 12, 2003 5:49 AM
Churches can do all the political activity they want with no restriction whatsoever. They just cannot do that and maintain tax exempt status.

and taking away tax exempt status isn't a restriction?Matno
Aug 12, 2003 6:31 PM
Not only is it a restriction, it's just plain wrong. But then, what do expect from the IRS? :^)

A few years back, I read a really good book about the IRS entitled "To Harass Our People" (from the Decl. of Independence: "He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.") Sounds a lot like the IRS to me. When are we going to realize that we are idiots for putting up with this whole income tax garbage and switch to a flat tax?

(Interestingly enough, tax law was one of the classes I enjoyed most in law school, but not because of the principle!)
re: a violation of church and state???jtolleson
Aug 12, 2003 7:16 PM
Actually, what's forbidden is endorsement or contributions. Opening up a tax-exempt venue for an activity that serves voter education is not an issue. Churches do it all the time.

Candidates speak in tax-exempt facilities (both religious and secular) all the time. The only fight is where the religious entity has engaged in activities that appear to be imbalanced and partisan. Focus on the Family was the subject of an inquiry a while back for lending so much assistance to conservative Republican candidates.