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[P]
Bill to Free Political Speech of Churches; Other 501c3's Unaffected

By ip4noman in Op-Ed
Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 12:29:38 PM EST
Tags: Freedom (all tags)
Freedom

Congressman Walter Jones from North Carolina's 3rd District has introduced H.R. 2357, the "Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act." This bill would amend the IRS Code of 1986 to restore the ability of churches and other houses of worship to freely participate in political campaigns.

This is important to us because it is the same code, 26 USC 501(c)(3), which is sometimes intrepreted to restrict the political speech of Community Radio Broadcasters, Public Access Television producers, and presumably, not-for-profits which run weblogs like K5.

It is my belief that this restriction never applied to producers, DJs, and webauthors, but just to Board members, and only while acting in that capacity (a board member could be a DJ, or public access producer, or K5 author and still speak or write without restriction).

It is in fact the charter of these media outlets is to make sure there is equal access, but no restrictions on speech. However, the 501(c)(3) verbage is often used to in fact censor certain speech in public media outlets, or to coerce producers into self-censorship.


As a Public Access Television producer, the local provider (Time Warner) requires me to sign a contract which reads:
[N]o program ... shall be cablecast which involves any obscene or indecent material..., and [sic] attacks on honesty, character, integrity or like personal qualities of an identified person or group...
I am also a producer at SUNY Binghamton's WHRW (the local community radio station). Station members are told in initial apprenticship and reminded often of the 24 hour ban on "obscenity" (which cannot be universally defined), and on editorializing, political speech, and "calls to action" (which as defined in the official station handbook, would be more appropriately named "calls to go shopping").

I believe these rules are improper, the terms impossible to define, these contractual clauses not proper subject matter, and in opposition to the law and judicial precident.

Congressman Jones's bill is quite good and should be supported, but it would be nice to pass a similar act to clarify the impropriety of these requirements of community media producers.

From this page:

According to Congressman Jones:

"In 1954, then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson offered an amendment to a revenue bill that would permanently extend the stranglehold of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) into our nation's churches, synagogues and mosques. Since that time, the IRS has turned the 501(c)(3) code-section on its head in an attempt to punish pastors, priests and rabbis for nothing more than communicating the principles of faith during an election period. If passed, the Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act would restore the rights of all religious organizations to determine for themselves what they can and cannot teach from their pulpits, or communicate to their congregation and the public without fear that their tax status may be in jeopardy. It is time to restore freedom to our Nation's pulpits."

From a constitutional perspective, it is unconscionable that the current policy penalizing the free speech of religious institutions has remained intact and unchallenged for this long. The government has long recognized that institutions of faith and houses of worship have provided vital services to our communities and our nation. In fact, our public policy has been to honor the valuable contributions of these organizations with an exemption from taxes both for the organizations themselves and for the individuals and groups who support them. Regrettably, because of a simple appropriations rider in 1954, our public policy changed to recognizing the valuable contributions of houses of worship only if they gave up their constitutional right to free speech. (What an amazing exchange: we will honor your charitable contributions but only if you will give up your constitutional rights!) This obviously represents bad public policy and unjustly muzzles thousands of churches across America by preventing them from exercising their fundamental right to free speech. Free speech is most valuable when it is exercised during the elections of our government leaders.

To contact your Representative or Senator:

  1. If you do not know your U. S. Congressman, go to http://www.house.gov/writerep and type in your zip code to learn the name of your Representative.
  2. Call the U.S. Capitol at (202) 224-3121. When the Capitol switchboard operator answers, ask for your Senator or Representative by name. When that office answers, ask to speak to your Congressman or Senator. If he is available, he will speak with you; if he is unavailable, simply tell his staff your thoughts on H.R. 2357 and how you would like him to vote.
  3. If you wish to write and communicate the same message, the address is:

Name of your Representative

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC, 20515

Name of your Senator

U.S. Senate

Washington, DC, 20510

(To access information (bill text, sponsors, status, etc.) and track the progress of the "Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act," go to http://thomas.loc.gov and type in "HR 2357".



If I might "editorialize" for a moment, and ask for a "call to action": If you live in the United States, I urge you to contact your Congressman, and thank them for their support of Congressman Jones' H.R. 2357, but also ask him or her to approve a modification to H.R. 2357, or propose a similar bill, to remove this restriction for non-profit community media organizations, such as Community Radio and Public Access Television producers, and weblogs such as K5.

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Related Links
o Walter Jones
o 26 USC 501(c)(3)
o Public Access Television
o SUNY Binghamton's WHRW
o this page
o http://www.house.gov/writerep
o http://tho mas.loc.gov
o contact your Congressman
o Community Radio
o Public Access Television
o Also by ip4noman


Display: Sort:
Bill to Free Political Speech of Churches; Other 501c3's Unaffected | 59 comments (47 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
A better idea... (4.27 / 11) (#6)
by Hizonner on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 03:03:41 PM EST

Instead of holding churches and other nonprofits hostage, giving them a tax exemption if and only if they refrain from political speech, how about just never giving them a tax exemption?

From where I sit, this tax exemption looks like a big fat bribe to nonprofits, designed to keep them from doing anything the government dislikes too much. I know that people don't think of it that way, but that's how it ends up working. It's just plain guaranteed to breed timidity and deference in the very institutions that need to be independent.

Anyway, in the case of churches, it seems bloody obvious to me that the tax exemption is an establishment of religion. Unless the government has no criteria whatsoever for what's an eligible church, it's setting itself up as the arbiter of what's a legitimate religion. That's an obvious violation of the US Constitution. Yeah, I know, the courts don't agree, but the courts and I have a number of sharp disagreements about the Constitution.

Oh, by the way, "too US centric". :-)

Right On! (3.71 / 7) (#8)
by ip4noman on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 03:17:20 PM EST

Instead of holding churches and other nonprofits hostage, giving them a tax exemption if and only if they refrain from political speech, how about just never giving them a tax exemption?
How the government granting of tax-exempt status to churchs organized as non-profit corporations (that is, most churches) is NOT seen as a violation of the First Amendment seperation of church and state is beyond me.

In addition to squelching the political speech of churches, it also has the effect of allowing a quasi-government organization (the Internal Revenue Service) the power to decide what is an "official" church, thus denying it Pagans, Rastafarians, and Native Americans, and others who use psychedelic plants ritually, for example.

--
Breaking Blue / Cognitive Liberty Airwaves
[ Parent ]
McCulloch v. Maryland. (4.00 / 4) (#11)
by aphrael on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 03:29:15 PM EST

(1816), in which the Supreme Court ruled that Maryland did not have the power to tax the national bank. Why? because the power to tax is the power to destroy.

If you believe that, any reasonable reading of the free exercise clause requires that taxation of churches not be allowed --- because the free exercise clause could be deprived of all meaning whatsoever via heavy-handed taxation, and because the courts shouldn't be in the business of deciding what the limit line between acceptable taxation and unacceptable taxation is.

[ Parent ]

I don't buy it. (4.66 / 6) (#13)
by Otto Surly on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 03:55:30 PM EST

That argument seems to state that, since taxation can be used to effectively forbid something, the government shouldn't be allowed to tax anything it can't forbid. If it's only being applied to churches, not to other constitutionally protected entities (newspapers, gun dealers, and so on), it's just another special privilege for the church, as the previous poster said.

Religious organizations should not be given special treatment over other organizations that behave similarly. Since a church is typically a combination charity, education/indoctrination center, and political organization, it should be held to the same standards. (That said, I believe that all of those organizations should be free to engage in political advocacy, and all of them should be as subject to tax as any other business.)



--
I can't wait to see The Two Towers. Man, that Legolas chick is hot.
[ Parent ]
Huh? (5.00 / 1) (#20)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 05:57:02 PM EST

Since a church is typically a combination charity, education/indoctrination center, and political organization, it should be held to the same standards.

That would explain the situation as it currently stands. All of the above of usually organized as a 501c3.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Right. (none / 0) (#47)
by Otto Surly on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 07:13:19 PM EST

And this article is about removing the restrictions on political campaigns from churches, not all 501(c)3s.

--
I can't wait to see The Two Towers. Man, that Legolas chick is hot.
[ Parent ]
tax exemption vs. taxation. (4.00 / 2) (#16)
by wix on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 05:23:24 PM EST

First, this case's beef wasn't with Tax Exemptions it was over Taxation. Maryland was trying to tax the federal bank and undercut it's ability to do bussiness.

Even if you did tax churches there is still a brink: resonable taxes don't distract from the ability to do business, but unreasonable ones might. Your argument would only apply to the second case (I assume you acknowledge this by saying "heavy-handed" taxation).

Besides any of this argument would be moot under the 16th amendment since you're taxing the people not the organization by removing a tax exemption.

[ Parent ]

You can't tax the intangible (3.66 / 3) (#28)
by ip4noman on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 09:51:28 PM EST

"any reasonable reading of the free exercise clause requires that taxation of churches not be allowed"
You misunderstand. I'm not suggesting that the problem with 501c3 status is that churches should be taxed.

501c3 status of churches erects a Straw Man, a corporation, a not-for-profit legal fiction, an "artifical person". Now, persons can engage in contracts (the church can hire a carpenter to fix the pews), own property (like the church building and the surrounding land), sue and be sued, ... and the clincher: all persons must be taxed, right? But not a 501c3 non-profit corporate person.

See, the trickery is to invent something out of nothingness, then claim to have certain powers over this new thing.

The reason a church should not be taxed is not because it is a not-for-profit-corporate-thing, but because it isn't really a thing at all.

Sure it is the preacher and the parishioners, and the building, and the land.... But it is something more, too, something intangable. Somthing immaterial. A church is a moral path, a belief about meaning and mystery, a way of living, a sense of the divine, a feeling of awe about nature. You can burn the church building, burn the holy books, even terrorize or kill the parishoners. But something still remains, this intangable spirit. And even the taxman can't catch a ghost.

--
Breaking Blue / Cognitive Liberty Airwaves
[ Parent ]
I Disagree (none / 0) (#52)
by Emissary on Sun Sep 15, 2002 at 12:37:54 AM EST

You can burn the church building, burn the holy books, even terrorize or kill the parishoners. But something still remains, this intangable spirit.

Perhaps you can burn the books and the church, but if you kill the parishioners there's nothing left. You argue that a religion is "something more... something intangable [sic]." That intangible something is an idea, and if you eliminate its carriers then it dies, like a disease. For more information see the state religion of Rome, or smallpox.

"Be instead like Gamera -- mighty, a friend to children, and always, always screaming." - eSolutions
[ Parent ]
It's the non-profitness of it (none / 0) (#55)
by rantweasel on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 10:43:47 PM EST

The tax exempt status has nothing to do with the churchiness of the organization, it's all to do with the non-profitness of it.  A church for profit wouldn't benefit from the tax exemptions, nor suffer from the limits on speech.  I agree about limitations on peyote and the like, but the IRS (for all of their other evils) has less to do with the enforcement (or exemptions) of drug laws than determining the validity of tax exemption claims.  If another agency is basing their decisions on religious drug use on the IRS's tax emption status, that's hardly the fault of the IRS.  It's bad judging or DEA shitheadedness or whatnot.

mathias

[ Parent ]

Uhm.. hey foreign guy (1.16 / 6) (#18)
by thelizman on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 05:32:09 PM EST

nstead of holding churches and other nonprofits hostage, giving them a tax exemption if and only if they refrain from political speech, how about just never giving them a tax exemption?
Taxation = confiscation of money so the government can spend it in a way you probably would'nt.

How about they stay the hell out of my wallet.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Uhm... hey government employee (4.80 / 5) (#21)
by Hizonner on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 06:08:26 PM EST

You're right. I mean, I don't agree with you as vehemently as I would have when I was all young and naive and passionate and stuff, but basically you're right. Taxation is theft. Just like war is murder, and conscription is slavery. See, I remember the whole list!

Now, let's come back back to the planet Earth, and talk about something that could actually be sold to somebody with some influence sometime this century. Given that you're going to have a system of taxation (and you are, theft or no theft), the question is whether such a mode of extortion from the populace should, in addition to its other effects, be used to bribe people to shut up. I say no. I also say it shouldn't be used to establish religion, especially by government officials who have sworn to uphold a Constitution that forbids such an establishment.

By the way, as much as a lot of the other states would like to pretend it's not, California is still considered part of the US.

[ Parent ]

sure... (1.00 / 2) (#24)
by Anon 17933 on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 07:48:16 PM EST

By the way, as much as a lot of the other states would like to pretend it's not, California is still considered part of the US.

I may have to disagree with you there -- the left coast is about as far out of tune with the rest of the country as it can possibly be.

:)

[ Parent ]

Future (4.00 / 6) (#27)
by godix on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 08:17:12 PM EST

"the left coast is about as far out of tune with the rest of the country as it can possibly be."

Sadly the left coast now is also usually what America will become 10 years later. The future is a sad, bleak place. Now pass me my legal pot please, I gotta kick this illegal tobacco habit....


Don't mind the plummeting noise, mojo always makes that sound after I post.


[ Parent ]
It's really quite strange (4.75 / 4) (#29)
by andrewm on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 09:58:40 PM EST

Noone wants to pay taxes. Everyone's sure that taxation is theft. Yet despite that, you just can't find any politicians who actually want to abolish taxes.

Fortunately you're a decent person who means what they say, so you'll be running for president any day now, and your first act (once elected - and with such a popular policy you will be elected) will be to completely disband the entire government (from federal level down to the smallest county), completely disband all branches of the military, close all government prisons, fire all the cops (at least private security firms will hire them, so that's not a problem), get rid of the SEC and remove absolutely all laws relating to corporations - hell, you'll probably make the world a better place by getting rid of absolutely all laws. Sure, that means legalising rape, torture, theft, terrorism, extortion, slavery, etc but it also legalises any form of self defense, so it's not like we would need laws, anyway.

With a policy like that, I can't imagine anyone not voting for you.

After all, taxation is theft - it's not like you get any benefit at all from the government, so all of that rubbish would be better off consigned to history books.

[ Parent ]

Count me in! (none / 0) (#37)
by j1mmy on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 02:13:00 PM EST

Sure, that means legalising rape, torture, theft, terrorism, extortion, slavery, etc but it also legalises any form of self defense, so it's not like we would need laws, anyway.

Sounds like fun.


[ Parent ]

Charities are undemocratic. (5.00 / 2) (#34)
by jesushatesyou on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 01:14:44 AM EST

Tax exemption seems to be yet another way to outsource something which a government does to private interests in order to reduce the size of government. Tax exemption has an advantage over normal private outsourcing in that it looks like no transaction is really taking place between the charity and the government, and so it appears that the government as a whole is smaller, and that general taxation is less.

In effect, the government pays the charities, churches and other nonprofits to do things which benefit the common good, and which the government might have to do if the nonprofits didn't exist. They might as well collect tax from them and then pay it all back as a fee for the charity doing it's job.

As a result, the government loses massive amounts of revenue to charities, where what happens to it is not democratically decided. Rich individuals can pay half of their tax to charities of their choice, so the government never sees it.

It's like people hate paying taxes so much (and it is so politically unpopular) that they would prefer to give their money to ANYONE except the government, even a charity or a church...

But whether or not you believe government should do these things directly, at the cost of large government, is another matter, and the subject of huge (and probably neverending) debate.

Personally I think that no charities should be tax exempt. The government has to subsidize charities, when in reality charities should be just that - when you donate you have to GIVE, rather than just getting a tax exemption.

[ Parent ]

Charities (4.00 / 1) (#46)
by ranchdudes on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 06:11:00 PM EST

I am not 100% certain that the government should consider gifts to charities tax deductible (hence subsidizing charities). There is some sense in this, however.

  • Charity benefits society, and government likes to pretend that it contributed to anything good that happens.
  • Government does things extremely inefficiently, and it takes a long time from when a societal problem is identified until it is addressed by government action. Private action is much faster - and every single person may decide to help some good cause at any time - while there is only one government and many people must agree before it takes any action (other than to spend more money than last year). Thus it makes sense to subsidize some private actions - i.e. gifts to recognized charitable organizations.

The bad thing about gifts being tax deductible is that it forces contributions from those people that choose no to contribute to any one particular charity. You, however, seem to think that people should want to give their money to the government:

It's like people hate paying taxes so much (and it is so politically unpopular) that they would prefer to give their money to ANYONE except the government, even a charity or a church...

Charities will not put you in jail if you do not pay up, and if you determine not to pay certain charities, you don't have to. The government is not a charity and it doesn't operate like one.

People willingly contribute to charities, while the pay stub "contributions" to social security, medicare, and medicaid are just feebly disguised taxes. If you don't believe it, try not contributing one year.

rd

[ Parent ]

Taxes are good? (none / 0) (#40)
by dipierro on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 02:41:32 PM EST

Anyway, in the case of churches, it seems bloody obvious to me that the tax exemption is an establishment of religion.

Actually I couldn't disagree more. Taxing churches would be an establishment of religion. Not taxing them is perfectly legitimate.



[ Parent ]
Surely you don't really mean "establishment&q (5.00 / 1) (#44)
by Hizonner on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 05:41:06 PM EST

If it were anything, taxing churches would be an interference with the free exercise of religion, not an establishment of religion. "Establishment of religion" means setting up and/or encouraging one or more official religions. An example of such encouragement might be a tax break not available to other enterprises.

Making churches pay the same taxes as everybody else, without singling them out in any way, would no more be an interference with the free exercise of religion than making newspapers pay normal taxes is an interference with the freedom of the press. On the other hand, giving churches a tax exemption does single them out, and that makes it an establishment.

If there were a specific tax on religious items, say a rosary tax, or a higher property tax on churches than on their neighbors, then I'd agree that that was an attack on the free exercise of religion. In the same way, I'd agree that a specific tax on printing equipment, when other similar industrial equipment was not taxed, was probably meant as an interference with the freedom of the press, and should be treated as such. Again the issue is singling something out for special treatment.

The courts have done a pretty good job of working this sort of thing out in the freedom of speech and the press context... they look both at the intent of a law and at its effects on speech.

Yes, there are always gray areas... is a tax on a stone commonly used to make rosary beads, but sometimes used for other purposes, a "rosary tax"? You may end up having to look at the intent and broad effect of the tax. And, of course, you do still have the very nasty problem of identifying what's a religious activity in the first place, so that you can figure out what the government isn't allowed to restrict.

However, without the tax exemption, you hit those gray areas much less often, and the answers are arrived at in a judicial context. With a tax exemption for all churches, you end up with the question of what's a church being decided by the people who administer taxation. You also end up with a much more pervasive effect... almost every organization has to handle money.

Of course, if I were rewriting the Constitution, I'd simplify things still further, by eliminating all reference to religion, so that neither the executive nor the courts ever had to decide, or was ever allowed to decide, what was a legitimate religion. Instead, I'd simply limit the government to the point where it wouldn't easily be able to interfere with any legitimate activity, including religion.

[ Parent ]

I don't know (none / 0) (#45)
by dipierro on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 06:02:28 PM EST

You make good points, but I'm not sure I can have a problem with something that enables people to pay less in taxes. I don't know. The system is already too screwed up, really. As such I agree that the only real solution is to limit government to where it can't interfere with any legitimate activity, rather than giving religion an exception to interference.

[ Parent ]
Consider. (none / 0) (#59)
by vectro on Sun Oct 06, 2002 at 01:42:35 PM EST

If large political parties were tax-exempt, but minority parties still had to pay taxes, would you view this as an improvement?

The use of taxation is just as powerful as the use of its exemption.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]

church (4.71 / 7) (#14)
by ucblockhead on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 04:17:44 PM EST

How long do you suppose it is before someone founds the "Church of the Republican Party"?

It seems to me that this is the problem with all campaign finance laws. No one's quite figured out how to allow non-profits that discuss politics unfettered while preventing nonprofits from being used to funnel mass amounts of money to candidates.

I suspect that k5 itself is pretty safe, though, because the very nature of it is that there is no staff editorial positions. More traditional nonprofits are obviously at risk of being accused of being stealth political advocacy groups.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

Nazism is incompatible with Republicanism [n/t] (1.11 / 9) (#17)
by thelizman on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 05:31:22 PM EST


--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
that is a non sequitor (5.00 / 1) (#23)
by ucblockhead on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 07:17:26 PM EST

Your comment has nothing to do with my comment.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
This Has Been A Test (1.00 / 1) (#48)
by thelizman on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 07:56:15 PM EST

And you have been trolled.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Listen, son (none / 0) (#56)
by ucblockhead on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 12:03:41 PM EST

Please do not use words until you learn what they mean.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
you lose (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by regeya on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 08:01:31 PM EST


[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]
[ Parent ]

what? n/t (none / 0) (#57)
by jcolter on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 08:03:17 PM EST



[ Parent ]
sorry nevermind n/t (none / 0) (#58)
by jcolter on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 08:04:34 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Christian Coalition of America (5.00 / 3) (#39)
by dipierro on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 02:37:14 PM EST

How long do you suppose it is before someone founds the "Church of the Republican Party"?

Too late.



[ Parent ]
Are political parties taxed? (none / 0) (#43)
by squigly on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 03:25:29 PM EST

Why not make political parties tax-exempt non-profits?  

As I mentioned in a previous post, my understanding of tax-exempt status is to encourage socially benificial behaviour.   If we are to beleive that politicians are there to serve the people, what could be more beneficial to society than wanting to run for office?

[ Parent ]

commerce based on signatory power is the problem (3.50 / 2) (#22)
by sye on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 06:22:57 PM EST

At the heart of campaign finance is that free market commerce is not 'free' in any foundamental way. From top down, most lucrative commerce rely heavily on regulatory power, political power, and military power. From bottom up, anonymous transactions of any fiscal amount can never go through without leaving a trace of true identity for the sake of exchange. Here's a better account of the situation.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
commentary - For a better sye@K5
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
ripple me ~~> ~allthingsgo: gateway to Garden of Perfect Brightess in CNY/BTC/LTC/DRK
rubbing u ~~> ~procrasti: getaway to HE'LL
Hey! at least he was in a stable relationship. - procrasti
enter K5 via Blastar.in

Don't like this idea (3.83 / 6) (#26)
by godix on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 08:11:41 PM EST

Churchs are free from taxes. Fine, I have no real problem with that. However since churchs pay nothing in supporting the government why should they be allowed to participate within government? The same can be said of non-profits, public access television, and other entities that don't pay tax. Government isn't free, either pay your admission price and say what you want or stay the hell out of it.

In the case of K5 a strong arguement could be made that the users did a blatently partasin story and not the K5 non-profit organisation. I really really doubt K5 would ever have trouble because of it's long history of users doing the article selection. Besides, the rules are mostly a joke anyway. When Jesse Jackson or Bob Dole speak at a churches 'get out the vote' rally do you really think it's non-partisan and all sides are given equal time? Non-profit organizations don't deserve the right to take part in US politics, but nothing happens to them if they do.


Don't mind the plummeting noise, mojo always makes that sound after I post.


Citizens and taxpayers aren't equivalent... (4.50 / 4) (#31)
by aziegler on Fri Sep 13, 2002 at 10:49:58 PM EST

I don't like the idea, either, because it opens itself to strong abuse. Frankly, a church as an entity should not be expressing political opinions. The head(s) of the church certainly can, but not as if they were expressing an opinion of the church itself. (It's rather like our condo board elections a few months ago. The board itself recommended certain candidates, which IMO was inappropriate; it was also inappropriate for board members acting as board members -- during the AGM -- to recommend candidates. Those same board members, though, could have made personal recommendations at will and not been acting in a conflict of interest.)

HOWEVER, the main reason I'm responding to your post, godix, is that you have improperly equated citizens and taxpayers. If one must pay taxes to have a say in government, does that immediately disenfranchise folks on welfare, or people who are living on savings? IMO, North American politics (Canada and the US alike) is suffering far too much from this foolishness of putting the taxpayer as the central responsibility of government; it's the citizen to which the government must respond -- not the taxpayer.

The impact of this goes a bit further, IMO, in that corporations have gained nearly every right that individuals have -- and worse, have effectively unlimited resources in ways that most individuals will never have.

-austin

[ Parent ]

Clarification (4.00 / 4) (#32)
by godix on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 12:44:46 AM EST

Ok, I guess I did equate taxpayer with citizen, but I didn't mean it quite the way it sounded. What I meant is that a say in government is a right citizens and corperations have earned but non-profits haven't.

  A citizens say in government is their vote and free speech. A citizen earns these rights by accepting the responsability to use them wisely (if citizens really do this is another arguement entirely). Many citizens also pay taxes, but that isn't an issue in any discussion about a citizens rights. Incidently, the last I heard, most forms of government aid were taxed; including welfare.

  I really dislike the legal fiction that corperations should be treated as individuals. However the law does require corperations to maintain some responsabilities and they should get rights matching those responsabilities. This is why I have no problem with corperations lobbying congress, buying ads, or donating to a politician (provided it is above the board and not disguised as 'citizens for Joe Blow for president'). Most of a corperations responsabilities are financial so it makes sense that their say in government should be financial.

  A non-profit organization is different. What little is expected of non-profits (don't break the law) is more than compensated by the fact they don't pay taxes. Since non-profits have few responsabilities for the government they should have few rights to have a say in the government. I include all non-profits in this catagory, everything from the NRA to NAACP to various churches.

There, did that do a better job of explaining why I'm against repealing this law without confusing citizen and taxpayer? Basically we agree. Any citizen, even board members of non-profits, should be free to say whatever they want. When they are speaking for the non-profit however they should remain as politically neutral as possible.


Don't mind the plummeting noise, mojo always makes that sound after I post.


[ Parent ]
I dont' understand this.. (5.00 / 1) (#36)
by Kwil on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 02:00:23 PM EST

So you feel that corporations, which really exist only to generate profit for their shareholders, should have more say in government - that is, the system of rules and people administering those rules for the betterment of our society - than non-profit organzations - which exist specifically for the betterment of a diverse group of people within our society in ways beyond simple profit. And this makes sense to you?

In my opinion If either of the two are to have more say in government, it should be the non-profit organizations.

Or do you really think that Monsanto should have more say in government than the Citizens for a Clean Environment?

That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze


[ Parent ]
Yes, I do. (none / 0) (#50)
by godix on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 10:58:26 PM EST

"which exist specifically for the betterment of a diverse group of people within our society in ways beyond simple profit"

Many non-profits exist for the sole reason of trying to influence government. There is no other reason for groups like the NRA, NAACP, AARP, or as you mentioned, Citizens for a Cleaner Enviroment than to try and get government to do/not do certain things. I'm not saying these groups should be powerless however. I'm saying that these groups already have political power in the right of their members to vote, why should they be given any more influence than that?

Of course, not all non-profits are like this. There are organizations like churches which have a main goal of something other than political power. Since this isn't even their main focus, why should they be given more political power than the rights of it's members voting?

"Or do you really think that Monsanto should have more say in government than the Citizens for a Clean Environment?"

Monsanto provides jobs. It provides wealth in the stock market. It provides government income in taxes. It produces a product that society has decided it needed. When I see the Citizens for a Clean Enviroment do any of these I might re-evaluate my opinion.



Don't mind the plummeting noise, mojo always makes that sound after I post.


[ Parent ]
Rights and Responsibilities (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by squigly on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 03:21:31 PM EST

What I meant is that a say in government is a right citizens and corperations have earned but non-profits haven't.

I don't think rights should have to be earned.  They should be applied universally.  Exceptions to those rights should only be made in extreme circumstances when these rights would interfere with another entity.

Likewise, carrying out one's responsibilities should not be rewarded, merely expected.

I really dislike the legal fiction that corperations should be treated as individuals. However the law does require corperations to maintain some responsabilities and they should get rights matching those responsabilities. This is why I have no problem with corperations lobbying congress, buying ads, or donating to a politician (provided it is above the board and not disguised as 'citizens for Joe Blow for president'). Most of a corperations responsabilities are financial so it makes sense that their say in government should be financial.

I agree in general.  A corporation should not be treated as an individual, but it should have the rights you say it should.  It would make more sense to consider it as a collection of people - the shareholders.  It has exactly the same rights as any of those shareholders.

But a not-for-profit also is made up a a group of people.  It too should have the same rights as those members.  If it chooses to speak on behalf of those members, it is because they have reached a consensus that the organisation should speak, or the people they have delegated to make these decisions have reached a consensus.  Nevertheless, it is people - the citizens - who are speaking.

A non-profit organization is different. What little is expected of non-profits (don't break the law) is more than compensated by the fact they don't pay taxes. Since non-profits have few responsabilities for the government they should have few rights to have a say in the government. I include all non-profits in this catagory, everything from the NRA to NAACP to various churches.

A non-profit has more responsibilities than "don't break the law".  A church is meant to be a social   centre, a councilling service, a charity.  They, like the government, are a part of society.  An important part.  The reason not to tax them is that their existence is considered good for society and they should be encouraged.  Tax exemption is simply a bribe to persuade people to form worthwhile organisations for the good of society.  

Any citizen, even board members of non-profits, should be free to say whatever they want. When they are speaking for the non-profit however they should remain as politically neutral as possible.

Of course they should remain neutral.  I don't feel that non-profits should lose their status if they decide not to.  The members and supporters are free to cease supporting them and force them to stop campaigning, but it should not be the government who has the right through tax laws.

[ Parent ]

More on rights and non-profits (none / 0) (#51)
by godix on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 11:26:44 PM EST

"I don't think rights should have to be earned."

I've done an entire, rather incoherent, rant about how I don't think 'rights' exist, at least not in the way we're using the word here. I doubt I can explain my position any more clearly than that jumble of a diary I did earlier, so lets just say I disagree and leave it at that.

"Likewise, carrying out one's responsibilities should not be rewarded, merely expected."

Standard training for children and puppies is to reward the good and punish the bad. It doesn't work nearly as well if you punish the bad but never reward the good.

"It has exactly the same rights as any of those shareholders."

Those shareholders have the right to vote. The corperation is good for society in ways that are beyond the shareholders, therefore I think it should have rights beyond the shareholders.

"But a not-for-profit also is made up a a group of people.  It too should have the same rights as those members."

It's members have the right to vote. Many non-profits are not good for society in ways that are beyond it's members, therefore I see no reason the non-profit should have rights beyond it's memebers.

"Nevertheless, it is people - the citizens - who are speaking."

I don't want to limit any individuals rights regardless of if they're non-profit board members or not. What I want to do is prevent them from gaining further rights because they're board members of non-profits. To use Rusty as an example, he has the right to free speech and vote. Just because he is founder of K5 and a member of it's board doesn't mean we should give him even more rights, like politcal ad spending or political donations that individuals are prohibited from doing.

"The members and supporters are free to cease supporting them and force them to stop campaigning, but it should not be the government who has the right through tax laws."

This much I'll agree with, but for different reasons. I generally don't think non-profits should exist. If a group wants to become more formalized than 'those guys who hang out at the bar on thursday nights' then let them form a corporation. If the corporation is truely non-profit then they don't pay taxes just becuase there's no profit to tax. Provide write-offs for charity programs and the like then non-profits which collect lots of money and spend it on social programs (IE Red Cross) wouldn't pay taxes provided they really spent what they collected on charity.


Don't mind the plummeting noise, mojo always makes that sound after I post.


[ Parent ]
Scientology... (5.00 / 3) (#33)
by jesushatesyou on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 12:47:03 AM EST

Would this legislation affect the Church of Scientology? After all they are a church and enjoy 501c3 status. I'm wasn't aware that they scientologists were restricted from political campaigning, but as a 501c3 I suppose they must have been. Will this mean they will infiltrate the political system as well? Germany has the right idea...

Churches have no place in politics (4.20 / 5) (#35)
by RyoCokey on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 03:05:49 AM EST

As far as I'm concerned. The old-testiment chrisitian church I belonged to believed that christians shouldn't be involved in the ways of the world and the secular government. To the point where we didn't vote, much less express a political opinion. While I don't agree with divorcing oneself from the secular world altogether, I certainly believe that churches have no place in our secular government.

Is this such an odd idea anymore? Why should churches try to influence a secular government? I've never understood what part of christian doctrine demanded one impose laws on the heathen.

Oops. Sorry, kind of uncharacteristic rant.



"...the average American finds it hard to accept all the hand-wringing over America's behavior we're hearing in Europe's two dozen languages given that
Church and State (none / 0) (#49)
by vastor on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 08:19:46 PM EST

I think the role of Christians and State is something that is rather confusing.

Certainly on one hand, Christians shouldn't use the state to enforce values upon others (since it is pointless, it is faith that saves, not works). On the other hand, if we vote, we should vote for someone that will try and inflict the least amount of pain upon the world.

Is it loving to elect politicians that are cruel to foreigners/would-be immigrants/the unemployed?

I suppose not voting is one way of washing your hands of the state, but I'm not sure that staying clear of the state when there are frameworks in place for all citizens to interact with it is any wiser than it would be to just stay quiet if someone was being abused in the house next to yours.

Voting for the least immoral candidate/party isn't too rewarding, but there are many dangers that come with getting involved with politics (to the extent that maybe staying clear of it is the best action).

Unfortunately conservatives often latch on to christian values to use it as a barrow to deliver their own ideals (thats the problem with the party that overtly claims to be christian here, it is all about conservative middle-class values rather than christianity).

I think part of the problem is envisioning just what a christian state ought to be like. Should it reflect the hands off approach, just like God lets people sin, and thus be a very liberal/almost anarchist state. Or should it be heavily social democrat and have the state satisfy the core needs? I lean strongly towards the social democrat ideal (perhaps because that is how it will be in heaven?), but a strongly liberal society would most likely be the real way it ought to be implemented. There would be no need for welfare etc because the christian populace could supply it to those in need on a personal basis.

Taking things to extremes however is seldom practical (since there are no majority christian nations). If only 1% of the population is Christian, then a political party is clearly pretty pointless as it'd lack influence anyway. If it is 10% however, then maybe it should engage in some motion to try and improve things on the political scale.

Christians can't (shouldn't?) even swear loyalty to any nation anyway, so maybe parliament is an inappropriate place to be since (in a representative democracy) they would be implied to be representing other people rather than serving as an ambassador for Christ (which could cause great damage given our sinful nature, however it would also have the potential to stir people to think about things from a christian perspective).

Leadership is full of problems, just look at David, Solomon, Abraham etc. It is pretty unlikely we could pull off a job as good as them, yet I suppose the big temptation (in more than one way) is to think that surely we can do a better job than those that serve idols. But if all the state does is try to maximise the capacity to sin while stopping society from collapsing in on itself (like if everyone was murdering etc), then it is a pretty inappropriate place for a christian to be.

So I'm of two minds about the whole issue.


[ Parent ]

tell it to Gabe Cazares... (4.80 / 5) (#38)
by gr3y on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 02:18:30 PM EST

For the same reasons Scientology, Inc.'s "Narconon" must never receive a penny as a "faith-based initiative": it is a means to actively funnel cash money into the "church's" coffers (they call it a warchest), which is then used to further Scientology's political and social agenda (often illegally), malign their enemies, and destroy people's lives.

Sorry, I'm in favor of a solution that doesn't involve giving Scientology, Inc., and other organizations like it, the means to pursue its political agenda in the open, from the bully pulpit and on the radios, and malign legally elected officials that are not sympathetic to the "church's" official goals.

I am a disruptive technology.

Representation (5.00 / 4) (#41)
by Znork on Sat Sep 14, 2002 at 02:56:02 PM EST

So, if a pastor, priest or rabbi expressed their opinion in private, or at a political rally as a representative of themselves, would they risk their churches tax status?

If not; in a church, the representatives of that church speak not necessarily for themselves, but as representatives of whatever supreme being or faith they represent. As such, they command an influence over the faithful larger than they command in their own right, because they are not considered to be speaking for themselves or expressing their own opinions.

As long as the representatives of a faith are allowed to express their own opinions under appropriate circumstances, I cant see a problem.

The right to free speech and to interfere with politics and democracy is not guaranteed to apply to metaphysical entities, nor to abstract ideas, which is what the reverends represent in the church.

Trying to Legalize the Christian Coalition (none / 0) (#53)
by opendna on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 02:43:02 AM EST

Why is this an issue, you ask?

Because IRS investigations uncovered improper use of faith-based 501(c)(3) funds, organizations and venues to support the Republican Party. In particular, Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition exploded with the violation of 501(c)(3) and popped when the IRS came in to enforce the law.

Those interested should read chapter 4 (strangely titled "Pat Robertson, General Pinochet, Pepsi-Cola and the Anit-Christ: Special Investigative Reports") of Greg Palast's "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" - read it at your friendly local mega-chain books store today! (Buy the book if you're in the mood for a real downer.)



experience (none / 0) (#54)
by adiffer on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 09:52:05 PM EST

I just agreed to become a director of a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.  As I was taught, we are supposed to ensure that no more than a small percentage of our budget goes toward anything that might be perceived as politically motivated.  For us, this means lobbying or expressing opinions that take sides in political discussions.  The 501(c)(3) code is meant to support community organization that provide something important to their community that happens to be apolitical.  

The 501(c)(4) code, however, is different.  These organizations are also non-profits providing something important to their community, but the message they send consumes large fractions of their budget with political content.  Even these groups, though are supposed to refrain from actions that specifically pick one party over another.  They are supposed to remain issue oriented and spend accordingly.  This is literally the value they bring to their communities and the reason why they are granted the tax exemption.

The group I signed on with had many members that wanted to create political speech.  In order to avoid violating the rules under which they were organized, they created a sister organization created under 501(c)(4).  I would argue that Churches could do similar things if they wished to be political with an issue orientation.  I can't see any reason to change the law, therefore, unless it is changed for all of us.  The churches aren't any more important to their communities than the other non-profits.

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.

Bill to Free Political Speech of Churches; Other 501c3's Unaffected | 59 comments (47 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
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