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View Diary: Right wing Mega Church in Nashville buys tv time to urge followers to vote Republican (64 comments)

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  •  The kicker there (1+ / 0-)
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    "no substantial part of the activities" of the organization may be "carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation."

    If a day's sermon is dedicated solely to influencing legislation, that sounds pretty significant to me.

    •  To compare (1+ / 0-)
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      There's this guy in Tennessee named Harold Ford, Jr., maybe ya'll have heard about him...he's running for Senate.
      Anyway, he filmed an ad in his hometown church, and people raised a stink about that.  The church did nothing but open their doors as they have done all along.  That is not "substantial part of the activities of the organization."  They didn't do anything.
      That act of the church was probably not enough to make the church lose it's tax exempt status.  The cornerstone church seems to have done substantially more.

      •  The question would be (0+ / 0-)

        whether allowing him into the church was an implicit endorsement of his candidacy.   Assuming they did nothing more (and there is no identifying information in the ad), its probably okay.   Anything more might have been problematic.

        Note also that the "substantiality" test applies to lobbying, not political activity.   In theory, ANY political activity is grounds for loss of exempt status, although as a practical matter that is not the way it is enforced.

        •  But a candidate can't advocate for themself (0+ / 0-)

          (in terms of ecouraging people to vote for them) from the pulpit.  A candidate does that ONCE, and it is technically a violation.  They can talk about their faith, they can talk (perhaps, depend) about an issue on an informational basis; but brining up the fact that they are running for a Congressional seat is a huge problem.  It's hard to tell without the context of the commercial, but it seems from the description that Ford and the church made an idiotic decision.  

          •  To be honest... (0+ / 0-)

            if it were my client, I'd probably say no, don't do it.   But if there is no indentifying information in the ad, I'd at least have an argument that this didn't rise to the level of an endorsement.

            That beings said, you can have candidate forums where they talk about their candidacy, you just have to invite everyone on the same terms and conditions.   Yeah, like that happened.

    •  I didn't quote that part of the diary (0+ / 0-)

      but here:

      On the lobbying prohibition--note that an organization can do some "lobbying" without getting into trouble.  The first question is, what is lobbying?  the second question is, is the amount  of lobbying they are doing "insubstantial."  Lobbying for purposes of Section 501©(3) means contacting legislative branch officials regarding drafting or voting on actual legislation.   Contact with executive branch officials doesn't count.   Contact regarding issues, without a further tie to drafting or voting on actual legislation, doesn't count.   So telling somone that "abortion is bad" or "gay marriage is a sin" isn't lobbying... only when you say support S. 492 to ban gay marriage does it become lobbying.   Furthermore, its not political activity, until you say, vote for Bush because he opposes gay marriage and abortion.

      Once you've established that lobbying has occurred, you have to deal with substantiality.   There are two alternate tests.  One is kind of "squishy"-- is your lobbying diverting enough of your attention away from your charitable mission as to be determined to be substantial--not just in terms of dollars spent, but also in terms of time and focus.   The other alternative test is called as Section 501(h) election, whereby the charity can elect to be governed by hard cap numbers on how much they can spend.  

      It is rightfully noted in the comments to the original diary that a church can't make a 501(h) election.

      What the IRS is looking at is the totality of the activities of the organization, to determine whether its been divereted from its initial mission.   One sermon isn't substantial, standign along.   One would need to look at the totality of the operations and expenditures of the organization to determine substantiality.   I typically use a double digit test:  if more than 10% of the time,  attention or resouces of the organization are used for lobbying, you need to take steps to fix it.   And there are ways to fix it.

      •  Oh, and by the way (0+ / 0-)

        There are explicit regulations that say propositions and referenda are "legislation" for which the "legislative body" is the voting public.   I belive they are under Section 4911, which is the excise tax for excesss lobbying for a 501(h) election

    •  One sermon is very insignificant in the life of (1+ / 0-)
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      church.  This guy has probably preached hundreds of sermons. I'm sure the church has a ton of other ministries.  The IRS is not going to find that a substantial basis of a church's activites are political on the basis of one sermon.

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