It is time to end the tax exempt status of religious organizations that advocated for a partisan candidate.
Churches are free to exercise their First Amendment guaranteed right to free speech. But they cannot serve a partisan function and retain their tax-free status.
If churches wish to join the political process then they must function the way any other organization in the political sphere does.
Advocating for or against a candidate is wrong. There has to be a clear distinction between what is church and charity and what is partisan and political.
The political watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to “investigate the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for engaging in prohibited political activity in violation of its protected tax status.”
In their press release they cite a number of press reports of bishops advocating against the election of President Barack Obama. For example, in Illinois, Bishop Daniel Jenky — who previously compared President Obama to Stalin and Hitler — required every priest in his diocese to read a statement condemning the administration and instructing parishioners that those that do not heed his word have no salvation.
The Bishops are not the only tax exempt church entity to violate the law regarding tax exempt status.
A complaint has also been filed with the IRS by the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation about the activities of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
Churches play an important role in our communities and should be a place where partisanship is put aside.
It is appropriate for churches to advocate for members to participate in the political process, to vote their values and their conscience.
But there is enough partisanship in our country that tax exempt churches do not need to get into the fray.
If, however, they chose to do that then they must give up their tax exempt status.
About Bill Buck
Bill Buck is a Democratic strategist, President of the Buck Communications Group, a media relations and new media strategies consulting business based in Washington, DC, and Managing Director of the online ad firm Influence DSP. He has over twenty years of international and national communications experience. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.