Should Churches Who Campaign For Bush Lose Their Non-Profit Status?

The Bush campaign is apparently soliciting churches to become actively and directly involved in partisan politics, in a move that some suggest could jeopardize church’s non-profit tax exempt status:

While no one is arguing that the church members can’t also be politically involved, direct collusion between the Bush campaign and church entities in political campaign raises serious questions about the non-profit status of the churches.

Can churches be conscripted into the Bush campaign as active partisan campaigners and still retain their non-profit status?

If it is right and true that a movie trailer is a “political ad”, then, to be internally consistent, the answer to your question is no.

I suppose this doesn’t really answer the question, but I’m not sure churches should be tax-free to begin with.

That depends; was the movie produced with support and/or collusion with one of the political candidates involved? If not, the analogy doesn’t hold.

Clearly, since Bush is against abortion, for war, against terrorism, and for God, churches should be encouraged to campaign for him. The liturgy can be changed to support this: “Our Father who art in Washington, and His Father who art in Texas, hollowed be thy name.”

OTOH, since Kerry is anti-life and supports terrorism, churches should not be allowed to campaign for him. In fact, God won’t hear the prayers of those who support Kerry. Churches should go through their collection boxes very carefully, and any money that was contributed by Kerry-supporters is obviously tainted, and should be thrown away.

Do Republicans think that a church breakfast that serves waffles supports Kerry? Do Democrats think that a rigged church bingo game supports Bush?

I’m just wondering if BushCo will find some way to harass churches and synagogues who decide to work for Kerry.


As I said in the Pit thread a while back, turnabout is fair play, since Dems have their tax-sheltered union support. Heck, at least it is much easier to leave your church if you disagree with it than it is to leave a union and not lose your job. The Dems are being supremely hypocritical. It’s OK for them to feed at the tax-exempt trough? Meh.

Soon as the NEA and other tax-free Democrat campaign groups are no longer extensions of the DNC, I would argue against giving Republicans the same. Until then, the Dems can suck it down.

Brutus, can you elaborate a bit on that? Do unions and a churches have different IRS guidelines about what can make them lose their tax-free status?

Churches cannot endorse a specific candidate (or party, I believe). You’ll note that in the case of the story linked in the OP, they are not. Simple ‘voter registration’ is what’s going on, which is allowed under current laws.

Labor unions, on the other hand, are free to endorse a candidate. They also provide ‘manpower’ to the person they endorse, as they did for Gephardt in Iowa, and are doing for Kerry now. They do all this while being tax-exempt organizations. In theory, they are supposed to pay taxes on money spent for campaigning, and are only supposed to campaign to their own members. Also, in theory, frogs wouldn’t bump their butts so much if they had wings, but that doesn’t happen either.

I don’t understand the tax law, but I do know that many churches will not take kindly to this. It’s one thing for church leaders to council their flocks on moral issues. It’s quite another for Bush camapign to come in from above, have people sneak in a steal shurch directories so that they can “organize” a local church and pester everyone in it. American churchgoers are notoriously resistant to authority and manipulation, and stuff like this will piss them off mightily.

“Organizing the church” is not voter registration. Voter registration is simply urging people to go out and register to vote, without endorsing a political party. The campaign document clearly is interested in a lot more than that:

I don’t see anything I understand as explicitly against the law, but a lot of it sounds pretty shady. Churches and Labor unions organize themselves, not get “organized.” And I don’t think churches and labor unions are under the same tax laws anyway.

Piffle. Tempest in a casserole dish. Let 'em freak freely, says I.

The churches that are likely to blatantly campaign for the Shining One are already on board anyway, no one’s mind is going to be changed. Even if the Catholic Church heirarchy decided to try and torpedo Kerry, I doubt it would have that much effect, I know all kinds of Catholics who love their Church, embrace thier Church, and ignore any edict from on high that challenges their common sense.

Let 'er rip, and the Devil take the hindmost.

It would be nice to jerk the church/state leash on these guys, but by the time the story trickled down to the farthest corners of the red states it would be nothing less than, “the Democrats are coming to take your church away!”

Since I can’t envision Ashcroft doing anything about it, the question seems moot for now. Maybe next year.

I call bullshit. There’s nothing stopping Republicans from going for a piece of that tax-sheltered union support if they want to. It’s not the fault of the Democrats that the GOP hates the good old fashioned capitalism of collective bargaining.

Interesting sidenote

Well, if the Bush campaign can use the churches in this manner, then so can the Dems.

Let’s remove all tax exemptions from all organizations: I pay taxes, why shouldn’t they? I know that isn’t going to happen, but why are some organizations tax exempt?

I must say, the thread title strikes me as odd. What does campaigning for Bush have to do with whether or not churches make a profit? Are churches tax exempt just because they’re non-profit organizations, or is there more to it than that? Surely there are blatantly political orgs out there that are “non-profit.” Can some legally-aware Doper explain?

Some interesting snippets from the Yahoo link provided in the OP:

(Any emphases above are mine.)

So… when did the concept of “separation of church and state” formally dissolve, here in the U.S.? It seems I missed that headline.

If this can be considered nothing more than “voter registration,” then I think americans are being lied to much more than a lot of us previously thought.