Given the extreme abuse of tax relief we're seeing from, among others, Focus on the Family
and the East Waynesville Baptist Church
, the obvious answer seems to be tighter policing of the political activity prohibitions on churches by the IRS. Tax them if they're directly involved in politics, right?
After all, the IRS Guidelines are pretty specific:
Churches and Religious Organizations, like many other charitable organizations, qualify for exemption from federal income tax under IRS section 502(c)(3) and are generally eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. To qualify for tax exempt status, such an organization must meet the following requirements: ... The organization may not intervene in political campaigns ...
Sounds great! Shut the bastards down! Or at least tax 'em! Right?
Here's the problem: Churches on our side have been doing the same thing for years.
Sure, it's less coordinated, less polished, less obnoxious (nobody's telling people on our side that they're going to hell if they don't vote right) ... but no less effective.
I'm not sure I see a substantive legal difference between what traditionally African-American churches have been doing for 40 years and what Dobson is doing now. Now, I'm not a lawyer or a CPA or a Pastor, so this is entirely a lay matter for me, and I'd like to be wrong about it. Maybe one of our community lawyers, CPA's or religious leaders (paging Pastor Dan!) can comment and correct me.
But my fear is that if we complain too loudly about the Fundies' political activity we may end up causing trouble for churches that do arguably some of the best progressive community work and easily the best GOTV efforts on our side.
Let's talk about it -- prove me wrong!