Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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IRS laying the smack down on dominionist churches/501(c)3 groups?

This has been reported on Talk2Action, but not yet on Dark Christianity, so may as well post it here:

Apparently the IRS is now starting to aggressively go after churches and 501(c)3 groups violating tax-exempt status by electioneering, according to this news article. Even more of note, reportedly some groups may end up losing their tax exempt status for multiple violations:

IRS exams found nearly three out of four churches, charities and other civic groups suspected of having violated restraints on politicalactivity in the 2004 election actually did so, the agency said Friday.

Most of the examinations that have concluded found only a single, isolated incidence of prohibited campaign activity.

In three cases, however, the IRS uncovered violations egregious enough to recommend revoking the groups' tax-exempt status.

The vast majority of charities and churches followed the law, but the examinations found a "disturbing" amount of political intervention in the 2004 elections, IRS Commissioner Mark Everson said.

. . .

The IRS examined 110 organizations referred to the tax agency for potentially violations, and 28 cases remain open.

Among the 82 closed cases, the IRS found prohibited politicking and sent a written warning to 55 organizations and assessed a penalty tax against one group. Those organizations included 37 churches and 19 other organizations.

In the three additional cases in which the IRS recommended revoking tax-exempt status, none of the organizations were churches. The agency did not identify the three.

. . .

Among the prohibited activities, the examiners found that charities andchurches had distributed printed material supporting a preferred candidate and assembled improper voter guides or candidate ratings.

Religious leaders had used the pulpit to endorse or oppose a particular candidate, and some groups had shown preferential treatment to candidates by letting them speak at functions.

The "real world" effect on this is that at least three groups--possibly linked to dominionist groups--have probably lost their tax-exempts, and a number of dominionist groups are probably on what can be delicately referred to as "double-secret probation". Of particular note, the sort of "Christian voter's guides" distributed by the Christian Coalition, American Family Association et al could end up getting churches in rather serious trouble.

This is especially relevant as not only is Americans United but also now Defcon America have specific projects to allow persons to anonymously report electioneering violations at churches, and even mainstream pastors are starting to stand up (such as in the Ohio Pastor's Rebellion of over 40 churches filing IRS complaints against World Harvest Church in Columbus for illegal electioneering). Americans United reports in its press release that they themselves reported 11 churches in 2004 alone.

The IRS has released some details here in regards to the matter and also indicates it will have even more stringent regulations in 2006--in part because of a Treasury Department audit indicating lax enforcement of the law in regards to illegal electioneering. Entire denominations in certain cases could be in trouble (among other things, the Assemblies of God has been documented as being a major fundraiser for John Ashcroft's senatorial campaign).

I've posted a reply on Talk2Action which the general relevance of this increased enforcement for groups specifically monitoring abuses.

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