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(Some Guy)   IRS sued over lack of enforcement of prohibition on electioneering by religious non-profits   (thedailypage.com) divider line 384
    More: Hero, Freedom From Religion Foundation, IRS, establishment clause, sanctity of life, freedoms, tax code, Constitution of the United States, churches  
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2012-11-16 03:25:15 AM

BarkingUnicorn: Why the Constitution Neither Protects Nor Forbids Tax Subsidies for Politicking from the Pulpit, And Why Both Liberals and Conservatives May be on the Wrong Side of this Issue 

October, 2008




Maybe those arguments are valid, but does the Johnson Amendment Violate the Unconstitutional Conditions Doctrine?
Sure does.


http://blog.pacificlegal.org/2012/re-examining-the-doctrine-of-uncon st itutional-conditions/

by the 1920s, the Court applied the doctrine to invalidate a state regulation that required a company to waive rights protected by the Equal Protection and Takings Clauses of the U.S. Constitution, holding:

[T]he power of the state [...] is not unlimited; and one of the limitations is that it may not impose conditions which require relinquishment of constitutional rights. If the state may compel the surrender of one constitutional right as a condition of its favor, it may, compel a surrender of all. It is inconceivable that guarantees embedded in the Constitution of the United States may thus be manipulated out of existence.

Frost & Frost Trucking Co. v. Railroad Comm'n (1926) .

Since then, the doctrine of unconstitutional conditions has passed in and out of vogue, often reappearing in a flurry of decisions to curtail disturbing government forays into private affairs. For example, in the '40s to '50s, the doctrine was applied to invalidate state laws conditioning benefits (such as tax exemptions and government jobs) on the applicant taking a loyalty oath. In the '60s and '70s, the doctrine struck down laws conditioning access to unemployment benefits and other social benefit programs upon the waiver of religious freedoms, free speech, the right to travel, and other individual rights. And in the '80s and '90s, the doctrine invalidated government attempts to use the land use permit process to take private property without paying in the cases Nollan and Dolan.
 
2012-11-16 04:07:06 AM

JFarker131: A local pastor told his (predominantly black) congregation that "white people are going to hell" and that Romney supporters are the White Devil come to play. These statements were made at a pro-Obama rally at his church.

My mother works at a (predominantly white) southern baptist church. Their church got a letter (not sure from whom) earlier in the summer reminding them that they were tax exempt and in order to keep this status they couldn't preach politics in the pulpit.

Which leads me to wonder, which churches got said letters, and which did not? Also, when we have media reports of churches doing things like this, why are they not immediately punished and removed from tax exempt status?


Is your mother Alex Jones?
 
2012-11-16 06:16:52 AM

Nerdhurter: Oh, all you revolutionaries out there, the United States has a lesser number of believers than we've ever had. Probably just a coincidence that we're in dire straits economically, our children are dumber than they've ever been. Just noticing though, that we landed on the farking moon with a vast majority of our population identifying as Christians, not saying thats why we accomplished what we did but it obviously wasn't holding us back. But hey, fark it piss all over everything that came before us, Looking at our culture now compared to 50 years ago its pretty obvious we're headed towards idiocracy. At least no one will be offended when we name Lil Wayne a cultural ambassador


toughquestionsblog.com
Please note the areas that are most religious.

We landed on the moon because of science not prayer.
Lots of Christians during the dark ages though.
Moron.
 
2012-11-16 07:18:40 AM
About time we told these dark ages cretins to pay up or shut up.
 
2012-11-16 07:29:58 AM

Weaver95: if church pastors violated the law...then there SHOULD be an investigation and face sanctions for their actions.

look, there's a process here. if the law wasn't broken, then the pastors will have a chance to prove that fact. but you can't just ignore the rules. either the IRS rules apply to everyone or they apply to none of us.


the pastors aren't going to deny doing it. they want this to go to court. they think they can win it.
 
2012-11-16 07:31:28 AM

sammyk: CapeFearCadaver: kronicfeld: I don't know that I want to see a precedent set whereby one can sue the government for its exercise of prosecutorial discretion.

It's blatantly and publically breaking the law. If any of us were to do the same we'd be toast.

But you do not sue the local police to report a crime.


Reporting the crime ain't the issue here. They're suing to get the 'cops' to at least arrest someone...not even convict them. 

This is how a lot of state and federal agency law works, btw.
 
2012-11-16 07:32:32 AM

qorkfiend: mksmith: How about we just blanket-enforce the prohibition on partisan political activism against ALL religious organizations in this country, period?

The government absolutely cannot do such a thing. It would violate both the letter and spirit of the First Amendment for the government to attempt to enforce a blanket prohibition on political speech or activity by private citizens.


Private citizens are entitled to complete freedom of speech. Private citizens also pay taxes. The Catholic Church (e.g.) is NOT a "private citizen." When a bishop sends out a letter to his parish priests with instructions to read it to their congregations instructing them how the Church expects them to vote, he's acting as a representative of an organization -- and one which does NOT pay taxes. Even in this age of "corporations are people," that has nothing to do with the First Amendment.

Even in an individual fundamentalist church without a governing structure hanging above it, when a preacher attacks one candidate and promotes another FROM THE PULPIT, he's speaking on behalf of the church, which has agreed to meet certain standards in order to qualify as a non-taxpaying organization.

Churches are exempt from paying taxes on the theory that they use the money they take in for the greater good. Charitable giving, missionary work, and all that. Spending their revenues to promote political candidates is specifically excluded from what they're allowed to do as churches. Churches are NOT allowed to simply do whatever they damn well please and expect protection for it, but that seems to be how most of them construe their "rights."

The First Amendment protects the freedom of religious activity and organizations -- fine. It does NOT protect exclusion from paying taxes. Taxes are entirely a civil matter and they can be demanded of any individual or organization in the country. Congress may levy taxes on whomever they want. Why is that so hard to understand?

(Personally, I believe churches ought to have to pay taxes anyway, as they do in most other Western nations, which are far more secular than the U.S. And I loathe missionaries.)
 
2012-11-16 08:35:54 AM

TrollingForColumbine: Some things should be done in a neutral location. Public school, town hall, public arenas, library. My wife is Israeli (and Jewish) she is not comfortable voting in a christian church. I only care on principle she cares in her soul. Such feelings, though maybe illogical, may prevent some people from voting.


I'm a passionate atheist and I couldn't have given less of a f*ck that I was voting in a church's meeting/banquet hall. There are only so many venues sizable and accessible enough to process tens of thousands of people in a twelve-hour block of time. Fire stations, churches, VFW/American Legion halls, etc are abundant and can handle the load.
 
2012-11-16 08:38:53 AM

relcec: Maybe those arguments are valid, but does the Johnson Amendment Violate the Unconstitutional Conditions Doctrine?
Sure does.


Okay, fine: remove the unconstitutional condition and the benefit. Problem solved. Or hold churches to precisely the same standards that non-religious 501(c)(3) corporations are subject to, and stop giving them preferential treatment.
 
2012-11-16 09:21:25 AM

TrollingForColumbine: Some things should be done in a neutral location. Public school, town hall, public arenas, library. My wife is Israeli (and Jewish) she is not comfortable voting in a christian church. I only care on principle she cares in her soul. Such feelings, though maybe illogical, may prevent some people from voting.


Your Israeli wife believes that standing in a building where Christians hang out is somehow damaging to her "soul?"

I hate to be the first to tell you this- but that has nothing to do with her religion and everything to do with her being a superstitious twatwaffle.

// Atheist who feels comfortable voting/hanging out anywhere
 
2012-11-16 10:08:03 AM
I'm really tired of people speaking poorly of the dark ages. it's only called the dark ages because of some historian trying to bad mouth the non-christian horde. plus, the poetry was better.
 
2012-11-16 10:11:19 AM

Theaetetus: Plenty of such precedents exist, where the exercised discretion ends up violating equal protection. For example, cops can't exercise their discretion and let all white folks go with a warning while ticketing all black folks.
Here, at least according to the complaint, the IRS is enforcing the prohibition against non-religious non-profits, but not enforcing it against religious non-profits, and that that's discriminatory and unconstitutional.


Ah. That was my best guess as to what basis might be used, when someone elsewhere raised the question of (individual) standing not allowing such a suit. The FFRF isn't an individual; it's another 501(c)3.
 
2012-11-16 10:11:54 AM

jso2897: beta_plus: Black Churches will mysteriously not be included in a successful lawsuit.

/Welcome to Sarajevo

As far as I know, there are no black churches in the IRS. It's a tax agency, and contains no churches. You do understand who is getting sued here, don't you? I thought you were supposed to be smarter than all us inferiors.


Wow, you are a retard. No way this case won't be selectively enforced. Nope, not possible. It won't be all churches - just the churches that said vote Romney.
 
2012-11-16 10:26:08 AM

Delawheredad: Metraxis

Problems start to arise when you start using the tax code as an instrument of social poilcy. It creates all kinds of perverse incentives.

-- here here!


Jesus Christ.

Are you both retarded? The Tax Code is and has ever been a tool of policy, and one that is preferred over all other means by the political Party of your preference, the GOP. (Please, spare us your protestations otherwise. You're not fooling anyone, except maybe yourselves.)

How can you be so self-unaware?

Does it hurt?

(Apparently not.)

Hunter_Worthington: Wow. You Libs are really angry, aren't you?


Feel free to explain why we should not be.

rev. dave: Small churches need an exemption.


Why?

peeledpeas: Don't give me that "separation of church and state" myth either because the concept cannot exist in reality in a country that supposedly has freedom of speech.


And yet, there it is, enshrined in the Constitution and settled case law. You may continue to be certain of your opinion, but you will also continue to be incorrect. Have a nice day.
 
2012-11-16 10:30:46 AM

beta_plus: jso2897: beta_plus: Black Churches will mysteriously not be included in a successful lawsuit.

/Welcome to Sarajevo

As far as I know, there are no black churches in the IRS. It's a tax agency, and contains no churches. You do understand who is getting sued here, don't you? I thought you were supposed to be smarter than all us inferiors.

Wow, you are a retard. No way this case won't be selectively enforced. Nope, not possible. It won't be all churches - just the churches that said vote Romney.


" Vote! Voting's the best revenge!"
 
2012-11-16 10:34:34 AM

relcec: usernameguy: Unfortunately I think what will happen is that the electioneering statute will be ruled unconstitutional.

no, the lawsuit will be tossed. you can't just sue the farking government everytime it fails to do its job.
holy shiat, can you fathom the can of worms that would be opened if that was actionable?


You can't sue the government simply for failing to do its job, but you can sue it when it fails to do its job in a discriminatory way. Look at Daniels v. City of New York, where the plaintiff had standing to sue over NYPD's racial profiling because he belonged to a member of the class being discriminated against.

This situation is a little bit different in that the relief sought isn't to stop the agency from doing something, but rather to force the agency to perform its duties. In the end, though, discrimination through either action or inaction should be sufficient grounds.

relcec: Maybe those arguments are valid, but does the Johnson Amendment Violate the Unconstitutional Conditions Doctrine?
Sure does.


Quoting a 1926 Supreme Court case that is only tangentially on point is intellectually dishonest when somebody has already cited Regan v. Taxation With Representation, which is from 1983 and is directly on point - specifically when it held that the unconstitutional conditions doctrine does not apply to 501(c)(3) charities.
 
2012-11-16 10:51:25 AM

bmihura: As a Libertarian, how about government has nothing to do with marriage?


Read a book, Mr. Libertarian.

Marriage is about the all same things Government is about (and what you claim Government should limit itself to):

Property and Contracts.

Marriage existed for centuries before anyone came up with the idea of Monotheism.

It's entirely a function of Government, Religion just glommed itself onto it, much as it did to all the interesting Pagan holidays, before proceeding to suck all the fun out of them.

Much as I hate to agree with Heinlein about anything, he's on the money on this one: Marriage is a contract, no more, no less, and should be subject to the same regulations as other contracts. Churches may sanctify those contracts as they and the parties see fit. If the parties don't feel the need for churches (as in the case of my own marriage, now 26 years in the running) churches can rightly fark off. We don't need them, and we sure as hell don't want them involved. Are you going to tell me that my marriage is not valid?

Get your head on straight. You don't even understand what you claim to believe.

Rather like most religious people, if you think about it.
 
2012-11-16 11:48:41 AM

rev. dave: Marriage seems religious


And you are incorrect in that perception.

It's a common misconception, and one that is actively encouraged by the churches, but it is wrong, nevertheless. (As is much of what the churches profess, but that's another can of worms.) Marriage is a contract, and as such, it is entirely a creature of the State.

phyrkrakr: Quoting a 1926 Supreme Court case that is only tangentially on point is intellectually dishonest when somebody has already cited Regan v. Taxation With Representation, which is from 1983 and is directly on point - specifically when it held that the unconstitutional conditions doctrine does not apply to 501(c)(3) charities.


Dude, it's relcec. What would you expect other than intellectual dishonesty?
 
2012-11-16 12:11:26 PM

Leeds: Your Israeli wife believes that standing in a building where Christians hang out is somehow damaging to her "soul?"

I hate to be the first to tell you this- but that has nothing to do with her religion and everything to do with her being a superstitious twatwaffle.

// Atheist who feels comfortable voting/hanging out anywhere


Jeebus, Leeds and I agree about something.
 
2012-11-16 12:18:34 PM

Leeds: Your Israeli wife believes that standing in a building where Christians hang out is somehow damaging to her "soul?"


Okay, my understanding of Jewish theology isn't exactly perfect, BUT. . .

A building dedicated to the worship of YHWH by a group of gentiles who follow the Ten Commandments and the Noahide Laws (I thought under traditional Jewish legal thought, a properly observant Christian would count as a "Righteous Gentile") and consider the Torah to be the first few books of their own scripture, and it's enough of a problem that she won't even set foot in there?

Christianity is essentially worship of the Hebrew deity by gentiles, with the belief that the Messiah already came and went 2000 years ago. I know that last one is out of mainstream Jewish thought, but is it such blasphemy that even setting foot in a place dedicated to such an idea to endanger ones soul? I thought the only place that held that caveat (to set foot in there endangers the soul) in modern Jewish thought was the Temple Mount, since nobody is 100% sure where the Holiest of Holies was on that hilltop (and the fact that a key Mosque is there makes it largely a moot point).

Then again, religion does make people act irrationally, and even disobey the logic of their own faith.
 
2012-11-16 01:09:32 PM
Loadmaster: Freedom of Speech. Protected political speech, specifically.

Mort_Q: No-one is saying they don't have the right to speak or endorse candidates. That is their right. It's just that doing so means they have to give up their tax-exempt status.

Loadmaster: So you don't get freedom of speech unless you pay taxes?

Biological Ali: You're confusing "freedom of speech" with "freedom from taxes".


No, it seems quite clear: Pastors do not get to voice their political opinions in church unless the church pays property taxes, otherwise they are violating the law.
 
2012-11-16 01:38:04 PM

Loadmaster: No, it seems quite clear: Pastors do not get to voice their political opinions in church unless the church pays property taxes, otherwise they are violating the law.


Now I'm no tax lawyer but I don't think it's property taxes that are the issue here.
 
2012-11-16 03:25:00 PM
I'm OK with this as long as they go after churches who endorsed BOTH candidates. Whats good for the goose and all that.
 
2012-11-16 04:50:20 PM

Slaxl: What's the function of exempting religion from taxes?


Well it has really nothing to do with being religious and everything to do with being not for profit. A not for profit is supposed to be out to help people in some way (e.g. a church running a soup kitchen) so any revenues they bring in are not taxed because they are providing a service the government isn't. This only applies to the corporate tax (at least at the federal level. I believe most of these organizations are exempt from state taxes as well but that might vary from state to state), a person working for the organization still pays income tax.
 
2012-11-16 05:59:54 PM

Netrngr: I'm OK with this as long as they go after churches who endorsed BOTHEITHER candidates. Whats good for the goose and all that.

 

FTFY
 
2012-11-17 12:36:25 AM

kronicfeld: relcec: Maybe those arguments are valid, but does the Johnson Amendment Violate the Unconstitutional Conditions Doctrine?
Sure does.

Okay, fine: remove the unconstitutional condition and the benefit. Problem solved. Or hold churches to precisely the same standards that non-religious 501(c)(3) corporations are subject to, and stop giving them preferential treatment.


it's unconstitutional to require any of them to give up constitutionally guaranteed rights in order to receive a benefit. the standard is bullshiat and unconstitutional, and it used to be a liberal tenet that this kind of thing was ridiculous and dangerous. you people have turned into fascists.
 
2012-11-17 01:39:54 PM

relcec: it's unconstitutional to require any of them to give up constitutionally guaranteed rights in order to receive a benefit


As a matter of Law, current case law seems to indicate that any exemption from taxation is "a matter of legislative grace" -- even that of churches.

Thus, it's rather that the benefit is reserved to certain entities that exist in a harmonious relationship to the community at large, and that foster its "moral or mental improvement," should not be inhibited in their activities. It is within the power of Congress to determine that some groups, such as Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes (et cetera), generally have such harmonious relationship, but that such harmonious relationship is not legislatively considered to exist when a substantial part of the activities [...] is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation, or in cases where the corporate entity begins to 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.

Though that leaves out some additional weasel wording on the threshold for "substantial".
 
2012-11-17 03:26:54 PM

abb3w: relcec: it's unconstitutional to require any of them to give up constitutionally guaranteed rights in order to receive a benefit

As a matter of Law, current case law seems to indicate that any exemption from taxation is "a matter of legislative grace" -- even that of churches.

Thus, it's rather that the benefit is reserved to certain entities that exist in a harmonious relationship to the community at large, and that foster its "moral or mental improvement," should not be inhibited in their activities. It is within the power of Congress to determine that some groups, such as Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes (et cetera), generally have such harmonious relationship, but that such harmonious relationship is not legislatively considered to exist when a substantial part of the activities [...] is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation, or in cases where the corporate entity begins to 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.

Though that leaves out some additional weasel wording on the threshold for "substantial".


What relcec fails to comprehend is that 501(c)3 status is VOLUNTARY, you have to apply for it. If you don't like the terms, then don't fill out the paperwork and pay your gott damnned taxes.
 
2012-11-17 04:03:44 PM

lohphat: What relcec fails to comprehend is that 501(c)3 status is VOLUNTARY, you have to apply for it


Actually, that's a bit tricky. Under current case and statute law, churches don't have to apply to be tax exempt; rather, it appears they have to apply for contributions to them to be recognized as tax deductible for the contributor.

I'm not sure what would happen if a Church sued the IRS for not taxing them... aside from the story promptly hitting the Fark politics tab.
 
2012-11-17 05:05:23 PM

phyrkrakr: relcec: Maybe those arguments are valid, but does the Johnson Amendment Violate the Unconstitutional Conditions Doctrine?
Sure does.

Quoting a 1926 Supreme Court case that is only tangentially on point is intellectually dishonest when somebody has already cited Regan v. Taxation With Representation, which is from 1983 and is directly on point - specifically when it held that the unconstitutional conditions doctrine does not apply to 501(c)(3) charities.



it's not tangential. it's square. benefit offered on condition of relinquishing a constitutionally guaranteed right. there is such thing as badly decided SCOTUS case ya know.
SCOTUS said, in so many words, that congress wasn't offering a benefit in return for the relinquishment of a constitutionally protected right, but rather that they were choosing not to subsidize speech.

but that could be an example out of a dictionary for a distinction without a difference.

offering to subsidize an activity through tax breaks on condition that someone refrain from in this case engaging in political speech (or in another case getting married, or voting, or having a child with a black person) simply cannot be chemically separated from *just choosing not to offer a benefit if you engage in a constitutionally protected activity*, BECAUSE they are substantively the same action; only the way we choose to describe that action has changed.

you can offer a benefit, but you cannot condition that offer on surrendering a constitutionally guaranteed right that has nothing to do with the purpose underlying the original legislative goals (in this case getting people to form organizations not with the intention of profiting but of supporting their communities). the case you sight is bad law, and its farily obvious.
 
2012-11-17 05:21:33 PM
here's an example.
congress offers a $200 refundable tax credit to taxpayers that enroll in community college and voluntarily opt not to join a union.

the republicans say they are simply choosing not to subsidize union activity.
this does not violate the right to freedom of association. you can still join a union, you just will not receive a government subsidy while doing so.
but you say this is clearly an inducement to voluntarily relinquish a constitutional right, and this is for very good reason precluded by the unconditional conditions doctrine.
but the republicans repeat, this is simply the valid choice by congress encourage the education of the populace and at the same time a decision simply not to subsidize an activity that congress has no duty to subsidize.
 
2012-11-18 03:13:10 AM

Ragetech: If an issue is at odds with the principles or teachings of a church, they can and should be able to preach about them, *regardless* that it is a political issue as well. And yes, even if preaching means an ad in a newspaper. They're not talking about big oil, global warming or taxes from the pulpit, the abortion and marriage debates are important religious issues.

Threatening a church with loosing tax-exempt status is a road we do *not* want to go down, people. Seperation of church an state goes both ways. Why is it that people only get their feathers in a ruffle when they perceive the church is extending its reach. You should fear the government far, far more.


"Homosexuality is evil." Is free speech.

"Vote yes on prop 8 or God will hate you." Is electioneering.

Yes, adults can distinguish between the two.
 
2012-11-18 11:39:19 PM

kronicfeld: I don't know that I want to see a precedent set whereby one can sue the government for its exercise of prosecutorial discretion.


Well if a white defendant kills a black family and the DA does nothing or says "self defense". But a back guy kills a white family and gets the needle, I have a robes of laws not being enforced consistently.
 
2012-11-19 12:55:39 AM

lohphat: I have a robes problem of laws


/stabs autocorrect
 
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