The Engage Family Blog

Official Blog of The Family Policy Council of West Virginia

Finally, the Truth about Tax-Exempt Organizations in Politics…from the IRS!

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A recent article on the World Net Daily website should give every pastor and non-profit organization cause to celebrate. There seems to be much confusion concerning proprietary laws regarding the boundaries of tax-exempt organizations in politics. And organizations like Barry Lynn’s Americans United for the Separation of Church and State don’t hesitate to threaten churches and other organizations with IRS investigation if they cross these murky boundaries.

 A similar occurrence in Texas involving the Houston-based Niemoller Foundation and the left leaning Texas Freedom Network has delivered a devastating blow to all those who would seek to silence conservative religious organizations. (Read the article here).

 During the 2006 election cycle the Niemoller Foundation funded several pastors conferences in Texas to educate and encourage pastors on the social and moral issues taking place. These conferences also served to mobilize pastors to hold registration drives and in turn educate and encourage their congregations to vote. It was as a result of these conferences that the Texas Freedom Network called for an investigation into the Niemoller Foundation to see if they violated their tax-exempt status.

 The IRS has recently rendered its verdict in this case with a resounding victory for pastors and churches across the country. It, the IRS, found that the Niemoller Foundation did not violate the political entanglement laws relating to their tax-exempt status by holding pastors conferences meant to educate pastors on current political issues.

 And in a letter reviewing the overall purpose of the conferences, the IRS concluded, “An appeal was made to request attendees to vote and to request their members to register and vote, but in each instance observed they were told to vote their values.”

So what can we learn from this occurrence and the subsequent IRS ruling? The Director of Litigation for the Texas based Liberty Legal Institute, Hiram Sasser, has made the point clear: “The Niemoller Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization, just like a church, so by the Niemoller activities being granted as lawful, then any church that engages in the same kind of voter education combined with voter registration drives on the moral issues of the day is perfectly fine with the IRS regulations, according to the IRS itself.”

We would do well to heed the words of Liberty Legal Institutes Kelly Shackelford, “Be careful what you hear from these liberal organizations, they sound very confident and file many complaints, yet none are found valid even by the IRS.”

And Liberty Council (the Virginia based legal group) President Matt Staver has encouraged “From 1954 to the present, no church has ever lost its tax-exempt status for endorsing or opposing political candidates. This history alone should alleviate unfounded fear.” (1954 was the year the IRS Code was amended to strictly forbid 501(c) (3) organizations from political entanglement.)

What we can learn is that we have been spoon fed a liberal left portion of incorrect and biased information in hopes that Christians and pastors and everyone with traditional and conservative values will be silenced. The threat of IRS investigation has been a favorite tactic of anyone seeking to shut the mouth of truth-speaking conservatives, when, in reality it is a big puff of hot air.  

Further Food for Thought:
Pastors, Churches and Politics, by Matt Staver.

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