Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Blessed Are the Religious Right, For They Shall Keep Their Tax-Exempt Status 

Via Lambert at Corrente: The party of A) torture and B) Jesus (and boy, that Mel Gibson sure found the sweet spot, didn't he?) is up to its usual antics, swinging a pickaxe at the Constitutional wall between church and state. This time they've come up with a brand-new way to render unto Little Caesar:
Republicans in the House of Representatives have quietly introduced a measure to make it easier for churches to support political candidates, just days after the Bush campaign came under fire from liberal groups for inviting church members to distribute campaign information at their houses of worship.

Representative Bill Thomas of California, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, added the measure to a much larger bill, introduced in the committee on Friday, that centers on revising certain corporate taxes. The provision, called Safe Harbor for Churches, would allow religious organizations a limited number of violations of the existing rules against political endorsements without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status.

Although its chances of enactment are uncertain, Democrats and other critics of the proposal argue that its timing suggests that Republicans are trying to bend the tax rules in time to help the president's re-election campaign.

Last week, an effort by the campaign to enlist members of "friendly congregations" in distributing campaign information at their places of worship came to light in the form of a message e-mailed to some members of the clergy and other people in Pennsylvania, and legal experts warned that any implicit endorsement of one candidate over another could jeopardize a religious group's tax-exempt status . . . .

The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the timing [of the bill] "simply reeks to high heaven, literally."
And, should a church happen to exceed its legal allotment of (ahem) inadvertent violations, I'm sure someone at DoJ would be happy to write a memo explaining that the law does not apply to endorsements of a sitting executive. It's a straightforward separation-of-powers issue, see?

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