Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Free the Non-Profits

The IRS has decided they can take away a church’s tax exemption if a church group supports a candidate for office or supports legislation. The same is true of all non-profits. That ruling is a direct restriction of the free exercise of religion. The tax people are telling church groups that participation in the democratic process is punishable. I hope religious groups will wake up some day to that miscarriage of justice and infringement of their rights.

A friend wrote me the following thoughtful critique of my view quoted above.

“All institutions and organizations, including those that are non-profit, charitable, or non-partisan, secular or otherwise, are subject to relevant taxation if they participate in partisan political activity.”

As to religion, the first amendment says "Congress shall pass no law respecting the establishment of religion...." refers to the firm belief of the founding fathers that the United States should not have an established church state religion as in England, Sweden, France, Italy etc. They saw that peril comes to the state when there is an established religion and also that religion is controlled and weakened when the church is established. I agree with that completely.

In fact the second sentence...and "Congress shall make no law... prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." makes it clear that the government may not interfere with the free exercise of religion whether against individuals or church organizations. The first amendment tells congress to leave religion alone and not monkey in it. I believe that completely.

I believe non-profit, charitable, educational and religious institutions cow tow to the congress when they silence themselves politically so as to remain tax-exempt. In addition, employees of the local, state and federal government allow the government to prohibit them from publicly supporting candidates or advocating issues of a political nature. I believe this is a violation of free speech. It is also a way the government prevents huge numbers of people from participating directly in the democratic political process.

The religious and non-profits and government employees are too timid to fight for their guaranteed Constitutional rights. We in the non-profit sector of our democracy all should have full freedom of expression and not be threatened by the arm of government called the IRS.

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