Sunday, August 26, 2007

Calling on a not so motley CREW.

I sent the following e-mail to CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) regarding Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) and his appearance at a New Orleans church:

Dear Sir or Madam,

Last October, you posted the following on your website:

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) today filed an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) complaint against the Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park, MN for violating IRS law by openly endorsing state Senator Michele Bachmann’s candidacy for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Churches, like Living Word Christian Center, are absolutely prohibited from intervening in elections for any public office. This prohibition is a condition of the very favorable tax benefits public charities receive under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code.

On October 14, 2006 Ms. Bachmann delivered a campaign stump speech from the Living Word Christian Center’s pulpit and the church’s pastor, Mac Hammond, openly endorsed her candidacy. Pastor Hammond’s comments and Ms. Bachmann’s speech were made during the Living Word Christian Center’s weekend services, presented before the entire congregation and broadcast over the Internet. By using church resources to promote the candidacy of Ms. Bachmann, the church jeopardized its tax status.

So can I expect you will file a similar IRS complaint against First Emmanuel Baptist Church in New Orleans? On Sunday, August 26, Presidential candidate Barack Obama appeared before members of the aforementioned church. He spoke about such issues as expanding employment opportunities for New Orleans residents and well as improving health care. Would those not be considered political issues? More importantly, is First Emmanuel jeopardizing its tax status by providing a platform for Senator Obama’s presidential campaign?

Any clarifications you could provide would be greatly appreciated!


Brad Carlson
Coon Rapids, MN

I'll post CREW's response in the event I actually receive one.



lloydletta said...

The difference is that Pastor Mac made an endorsement from the Pulpit.

Brad Carlson said...

True, but First Emmanuel looks to have violated one of the stipulations outlined in Situation 6 listed under Section 501 (c) (3).

When a candidate is invited to speak at an organization event in his or her capacity as a political candidate, factors in determining whether the organization participated or intervened in a political campaign include the following:

*Whether the organization provides an equal opportunity to participate to political candidates seeking the same office;
(Obama was the only candidate to speak that day. No others appeared to have been invited).

*Whether the organization indicates any support for or opposition to the candidate (including candidate introductions and communications concerning the candidate’s attendance); and

*Whether any political fundraising occurs.

So an actual endorsement from the pulpit does not need to take place for a church to be in violation of the referenced IRS code.