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IRS v. The Church

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Once again, we see the long standing war between church and state being waged in the headlines. A church who filed for section 501(c)(3) tax exempt status has come under fire for a sermon that was delivered from it's pulpit. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) decided that this sermon, titled "If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush," went too far when the guest pastor stated that Jesus would condemn the Iraq war and Bush's pre-emptive war doctrine. Because of this, the IRS has threatened the church with the revocation of it's tax-exempt status. The church said it would fight the determination, citing freedom of speech protections.
A couple of points to consider when looking at this matter:
The first is what the Internal Revenue Code says:
26USC501(a) Exemption from taxation

    An organization described in subsection (c) or (d) or section 401(a) shall be exempt from taxation under this subtitle unless such exemption is denied under section 502 or 503.
26USC501(c) List of exempt organizations
   (3) Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)), and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.
The statement made by IRS spokesman Terry Lemons:
"We recognize the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and religion," Lemons said. "But there is no constitutional right to be exempt from federal taxation."
(Note: I have to go to work. I'll finish this when I get home... Sorry!)


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