Just As I Thought

Pass the collection plate

Wow — this story has more importance now, in the midst of our new theocracy, than ever before:

The Internal Revenue Service has warned churches and other religious groups that they risk losing their tax-exempt status if they engage in partisan politics.

The IRS, in a routine advisory issued every four years since 1992, said religious groups are “prohibited from participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office.”

Churches, charities and schools, known as 501(c)3 groups for their section of the tax code, may hold nonpartisan voter education forums or voter registration drives but may not endorse candidates.

Nonprofit groups may not make donations to campaigns, raise funds for candidates, distribute campaign literature or “become involved in any other activities that may be beneficial or detrimental to any candidate,” the IRS said in an April 26 notice.

Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) said Wednesday that clergy members should be able to endorse candidates from their pulpits as a matter of free speech. Jones is the lead sponsor of a bill that would allow clergy endorsements without the threat of losing tax-exempt status.

In 2002, the House defeated the bill 239 to 178; Jones has since reintroduced it.

“It’s time to return the freedom of speech to the churches and synagogues in our country,” Jones said at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast. “God has been the quarterback on this and has led this effort to the 10-yard line.”

The Federal Election Commission is weighing proposed rules that could require some nonprofit organizations, including churches, to register as political committees that would be subject to stricter registration and disclosure rules.

The IRS said it would examine violations on a case-by-case basis, but the agency warned that it has the power to assess fines and prohibit political expenditures in cases of “flagrant” violations.

We all know that fundamentalist Christians are among Bush’s greatest supporters — it makes sense, because fundamentalists are used to ignoring facts and logic and blindly doing what they’re told.

Religious organizations have for years been handing out such things as “voter guides” — you know, those pieces of paper that tell you how to vote so you won’t have to think about it yourself. Don’t you think it’s time that they started to lose their tax exemptions?

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