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Has Obama’s ‘Mentor’ Violated US Tax Laws?

From the Wall Street Journal:


Obama Pastors’ Sermons May Violate Tax Laws

By SUZANNE SATALINE
March 10, 2008; Page A1

On Christmas morning, Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. compared presidential candidate Barack Obama’s impoverished childhood to Jesus Christ’s. “Barack knows what it means to be a black man living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people,” he then trumpeted. “Hillary [Clinton] can never know that.”

Mr. Wright wasn’t at a convention or a campaign stop. He was standing at the pulpit before the mostly African-American congregation of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, where Sen. Obama has worshiped for more than 20 years.

Mr. Wright, who will be ending his 36-year tenure as the church’s senior pastor in June, has previously been criticized for comments deriding President George Bush and lauding Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. Now Mr. Wright’s and his successor’s repeated enthusiastic promotion of their famous parishioner may be running afoul of federal tax law, which says churches can endanger their tax-exempt status by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office…

Trinity’s national parent, the United Church of Christ, recently disclosed that it’s being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service for a speech Sen. Obama gave to 10,000 people at a church conference in June in Hartford, Conn., in which he mentioned his candidacy and parts of his platform, namely health-care reform…

“There have never been more audits than in the last three or four years” involving churches, says Marcus Owens, an attorney who represents some congregations and is a former director of the IRS’s exempt-organizations division. But while the agency has issued dozens of warning letters aimed at halting advocacy for political candidates, it has only twice revoked a church’s tax-exempt status since the tax law was amended in 1954, a spokeswoman said.

Under the law that governs tax-exempt organizations, churches are allowed to support causes or ballot initiatives such as laws to ban same-sex marriage. They also can hold a candidates’ night for all office-seekers in a race. But according to guidance provided on the IRS’s Web site, churches are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

The prohibition is aimed at preventing government subsidies — in the form of tax breaks — from going to organizations that support political parties…

Some of the sermons mentioned Sen. Clinton or her husband in unflattering ways. During that Christmas morning sermon, Mr. Wright declared that Hillary Clinton “ain’t had to work twice as hard just to get accepted by the rich white folk who run everything or to get a passing grade when you know you are smarter than that ‘C’ student sitting in the White House.” On Jan. 13, Mr. Wright told the Trinity congregation that some people say, “‘Hillary is married to Bill and Bill [has] been good to us.'” Mr. Wright continued, “No, he ain’t!” Sen. Clinton’s campaign didn’t respond to requests for comment…

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, says it has filed 13 complaints with the IRS in the past year over alleged church politicking. They include allegations that churches made endorsements from the pulpit or on church stationery for Sen. Obama or Mr. Huckabee, says Rob Boston, a spokesman. One of those complaints involves First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., which has acknowledged that it’s under federal investigation. The ministry endorsed Mr. Huckabee on its stationery and its Internet radio program, Americans United said.

The IRS won’t disclose how many congregations it is currently investigating. Last July, the agency reported that it was reviewing complaints involving 44 churches and 56 other nonprofits related to the 2006 election cycle and had, at that point, found 26 cases of improper political activity. The agency examined 110 cases during the 2004 elections, issuing 69 advisories, akin to warning letters, and revoked the tax-exempt status of five nonprofits, none of them churches.

Since Congress amended the tax law in 1954 to restrict campaign activity by nonprofits, only two churches have had their tax-exemptions revoked, according to the IRS. The most recent case involved Branch Ministries Inc., which ran a church in Binghamton, N.Y., and placed full-page ads in two newspapers in 1992 urging Christians not to vote for then-candidate Bill Clinton. The IRS decision was upheld on appeal…

It’s about time.

Indeed, one wonders if this investigation hasn’t been the real reason behind Mr. Wright’s recently announced retirement.


Democratic presidential candidate US Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) speaks during a Sunday morning service at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina, January 13, 2008.

As for the chart at the top, Mrs. Clinton has probably spoken at more than 16 church “functions” just since we have been watching.

But you can bet that none of them are being investigated.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, says it has filed 13 complaints with the IRS in the past year over alleged church politicking. They include allegations that churches made endorsements from the pulpit or on church stationery for Sen. Obama or Mr. Huckabee, says Rob Boston, a spokesman

What a liar Mr. Boston is. The so-called “Americans United for Separation of Church and State” is an obvious DNC/Soros front group as even the most cursory review of their works reveals.

And Mr. Boston himself is an avowed anti-rightwinger.

Ironically, AU’s current executive director, Barry W. Lynn, is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ.

Also notice that the only church mentioned for having its exemption status rescinded was of course pro-Republican.

(Thanks to NotSoYoungJim for the heads up.)

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, March 10th, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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