POLITICAL observations & opinions

* read the IRS opinion for yourself, but it sure seems to me that the Catholic Church (and other religious organizations) are in serious violation of the conditions under which they receive tax-exempt status

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 17, 2010

Pope Benedict

******

Is the Catholic Church violating

the conditions of its IRS tax exemption

by insisting that U.S. Congressmen and Senators

must vote against healthcare reform

on the basis of its conformity to Catholic doctrine?

******

Excerpts from Rev. Rul. 2007-41, 2007-25 I.R.B. (June 18, 2007) … http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/rr-07-41.pdf

  • Organizations that are exempt from income tax under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code as organizations described in section 501(c)(3) may  not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.
  • Section 1.501(c)(3)-1(c)(3)(iii) of the regulations defines an “action” organization as an organization that participates or intervenes, directly or indirectly, in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. The term “candidate for public office” is defined as an individual who offers himself, or is proposed by others, as a contestant for an elective public office, whether such office be national, State, or local.
  • The regulations further provide that activities that constitute participation or intervention in a political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate include, but are not limited to, the publication or distribution of written statements or the making of oral statements on behalf of or in opposition to such a candidate.
  • The political campaign intervention prohibition is not intended to restrict free expression on political matters by leaders of organizations speaking for themselves, as individuals. Nor are leaders prohibited from speaking about important issues of public policy.
  • However, for their organizations to remain tax exempt under section 501(c)(3), leaders cannot make partisan comments in official organization publications or at official functions of the organization.
  • Section 501(c)(3) organizations may take positions on public policy issues, including issues that divide candidates in an election for public office.
    • However, section 501(c)(3) organizations must avoid any issue advocacy that functions as political campaign intervention. Even if a statement does not expressly tell an audience to vote for or against a specific candidate, an organization delivering the statement is at risk of violating the political campaign intervention prohibition if there is any message favoring or opposing a candidate.
    • A statement can identify a candidate not only by stating the candidate’s name but also by other means such as showing a picture of the candidate, referring to political party affiliations, or other distinctive features of a candidate’s platform or biography.
  • All the facts and circumstances need to be considered to determine if the advocacy is political campaign intervention. Key factors in determining whether a communication results in political campaign intervention include the following:
    • Whether the statement identifies one or more candidates for a given public office;
    • Whether the statement expresses approval or disapproval for one or more candidates’ positions and/or actions;
    • Whether the statement is delivered close in time to the election;
    • Whether the statement makes reference to voting or an election;
    • Whether the issue addressed in the communication has been raised as an issue distinguishing candidates for a given office;
    • Whether the communication is part of an ongoing series of communications by the organization on the same issue that are made independent of the timing of any election; and
    • Whether the timing of the communication and identification of the candidate are related to a non-electoral event such as a scheduled vote on specific legislation by an officeholder who also happens to be a candidate for public office.
  • A communication is particularly at risk of political campaign intervention when it makes reference to candidates or voting in a specific upcoming election.
  • A web site is a form of communication. If an organization posts something on its web site that favors or opposes a candidate for public office, the organization will be treated the same as if it distributed printed material, oral statements or broadcasts that favored or opposed a candidate.
    • When an organization establishes a link to another web site, the organization is responsible for the consequences of establishing and maintaining that link, even if the organization does not have control over the content of the linked site. Because the linked content may change over time, an organization may reduce the risk of political campaign intervention by monitoring the linked content and adjusting the links accordingly.
    • Links to candidate-related material, by themselves, do not necessarily constitute political campaign intervention. All the facts and circumstances must be taken into account when assessing whether a link produces that result.
    • The facts and circumstances to be considered include, but are not limited to, the context for the link on the organization’s web site, whether all candidates are represented, any exempt purpose served by offering the link, and the directness of the links between the organization’s web site and the web page that contains material favoring or opposing a candidate for public office.
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