Can US churches be debunking?

Mendel

Senior Member.
The issue came up here on Metabunk:
The Johnson amendment restricts tax-exempt churches on the USA:
Article:
Paragraph (3) of subsection (c) within section 501 of Title 26 (Internal Revenue Code) of the U.S. Code (U.S.C.) describes organizations which may be exempt from U.S. Federal income tax. 501(c)(3) is written as follows,[4] with the Johnson Amendment in bold letters:[5]
(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.[bolding added]

In 2017, the House of Representatives had a committee hearing on H.R. 781, the Free Speech Fairness Act, which aims to change this amendment. (It hasn't been passed, though it keeps getting reintroduced.)
Article:
Current law does not prevent churches or charities from speaking out on any issue. They can speak about all the hot button issues of the day. They can lobby the government. In fact, a group of 99 religious and denominational organizations recently sent a letter to congressional leadership explaining that they are currently able to, and I quote, use their pulpits to address the moral and political issues of the day. They also can, in their personal capacities and without the resources of their houses of worship, endorse and oppose political candidates. Houses of worship can engage in public debate on any issue, host candidate forums, engage in voter registration drives, encourage people to vote, help transport people to the polls, and even, with a few boundaries, lobby on specific legislation and invite candidates to speak.

[...]

The Johnson amendment bars 501(c)(3) organizations from, quote, participating in or intervening in, including the publishing or distributing of statements, any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.

[...]

Under current law, churches and other houses of worship can speak freely and engage in partisan political activity. That's under current law. This hearing is not about free speech, it's about money. Under current law, churches do not pay taxes. Individuals who donate can claim deductions for their donations. Churches do not have to reveal publicly who they are. If the Johnson amendment were to be repealed, as some are suggesting, 501(c)(3) tax exempt entities and their contributors would apparently be allowed to participate in political campaigns with tax deductible donations. Under their new status, America would have more than 340,000 new political action committees. The new PACs that self-identify those houses of worship could maintain the anonymity of their donors, and the size of each donor's contribution would remain a secret. The repeal of the Johnson amendment would not change the tax deductibility of donations of houses of worship. This means taxpayers would be subsidizing partisan political contributions. In other words, my colleagues are proposing to allow tax deductions now for those political contributions.

tl;dr "Houses of worship can engage in public debate on any issue" as long as they don't "endorse [or] oppose political candidates".

Churches can adress extremism and conspiracy theories as long as they don't engage in election campaigning.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
Churches can adress extremism and conspiracy theories as long as they don't engage in election campaigning.
the person you are quoting in the opening of your OP has specifically been talking about Q-An[n]on. That's why i told him to "be careful", not to "don't do that".

Article:
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations 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. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.

Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity.




AND the person i was responding to did not say he was interested in debunking in a non-partisan manner as your title suggests., he said he was interested in "countering extremism and conspiracies", the context being Q-An[n]on. (no , i dont know why he keeps spelling it that way)
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
That's why i told him to "be careful",
Yes, you wrote the IRS was "picky about political speech", but that's completely false.
The Johnson Amendment is aimed at campaign finance, not at political speech, and the IRS has never successfully sanctioned any church for political speech.
You have been fearmongering.

Article:
The ADF believes that this campaigning prohibition is unconstitutional, at least as applied to churches. So for the last eight years, it has encouraged pastors to flout the rule, to include an explicit endorsement of a candidate in their sermons leading up to Election Day, and then to send a copy of the sermon to the IRS.
During the last presidential election, more than 1,500 pastors apparently participated. And how many churches lost their tax exemptions? None.

Article:
Despite efforts by AU and others to report rogue churches and pastors that violate the tax code, the IRS has yet to take any public action to discipline any of the churches that have participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday since the initiative’s inception in 2008.

Another IRS official said the Service’s first course of action with non-profits is to educate rather than to audit.
“Education has been and remains the first goal of the IRS’s program on political activity by tax-exempt organizations,” Lois Lerner, director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, told The Times.
 
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deirdre

Senior Member.
i'll make it easy for you. (i wont get into Donald Trump running for President....)

The "Progressive Pastor" (his self label) lives in Marjorie Taylor Greene's district. The media likes to say Marjorie Taylor Greene is affiliated with q-anon:

Article:
Issue Advocacy vs. Political Campaign Intervention

Section 501(c)(3) organizations may take positions on public policy issues, including issues that divide candidates in an election for public office. However, section 501(c)(3) organizations must avoid any issue advocacy that functions as political campaign intervention. Even if a statement does not expressly tell an audience to vote for or against a specific candidate, an organization delivering the statement is at risk of violating the political campaign intervention prohibition if there is any message favoring or opposing a candidate. A statement can identify a candidate not only by stating the candidate’s name but also by other means such as showing a picture of the candidate, referring to political party affiliations, or other distinctive features of a candidate’s platform or biography. All the facts and circumstances need to be considered to determine if the advocacy is political campaign intervention.

Key factors in determining whether a communication results in political campaign intervention include the following:
• Whether the statement identifies one or more candidates for a given public office;
• Whether the statement expresses approval or disapproval for one or more candidates’ positions and/or actions;
• Whether the statement is delivered close in time to the election;
• Whether the statement makes reference to voting or an election;
• Whether the issue addressed in the communication has been raised as an issue distinguishing candidates for a given office;
• Whether the communication is part of an ongoing series of communications by the organization on the same issue that are made independent of the timing of any election; and
 

Hevach

Senior Member.
The actual reality of it is that only a tiny handful of churches have lost tax exempt status (and none in many years), even as a great many have broken those rules. There's a lot of op eds about churches being in danger for this or that, but actual revocations for political statements are vanishingly rare. The IRS's enforcement wing is very slow moving even by bureaucracy standards, and the cyclical nature of the election system makes it easy to be invisible to an enforcing body that takes years to bring an investigation.

Churches do lose tax exempt status for missing required filings (any nonprofit loses that status if they miss three consecutive annual filings) and failing audits (churches are rarely audited but can be), they're not immune to regulation, but political speech is a fight the IRS has not been willing to test, particularly with the Citizens United precedent looming over that question.

The closest they came was a Texas group that was openly affiliated with a campaign, but only under the criteria that they were filing as a church when they correctly fell under a different category.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
no it's not. You can quote whoever you want. i quoted the IRS.
You can't name a single instance where the IRS has sanctioned political speech successfully.
The IRS isn't "picky", they're lenient bordering on oblivious, and it's my firm conviction that they would only become active if a tax-exempt church started acting like a PAC.
This is from your last IRS quote; this criterium protects any minister who works against "extremism and conspiracy theories" as part of their ongoing ministry. They would not have to stop doing that or be more "careful" just because an election is coming up.
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
You can't name a single instance where the IRS has sanctioned political speech successfully.
the Branch Ministries is pretty famous.

The IRS isn't "picky",
your German interpretation of my American English means nothing to me.

They would not have to stop doing that or be more "careful" just because an election is coming up.
q-anon i an active political movement. but hey, if you want to encourage a progressive protestant pastor not to talk to his tax expert, that is fine by me. I'm a Conservative Catholic, I dont really care what happens to him.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
the Branch Ministries is pretty famous.
Article:
During the 1992 presidential election, Branch Ministries sponsored a series of advertisements in several major newspapers encouraging Christians not to vote for then-governor Bill Clinton. On the basis of these ads, the IRS revoked the church’s tax exemption.

Money was involved; the church acted like a PAC.
(It wasn't about what the church said, it was about how they said it.)
 
Last edited:

deirdre

Senior Member.
QAnon is not a political party, and they don't send candidates to elections.
Re-read your quotes, they don't apply to QAnon.

you are the one misreading. i am right. you are wrong. if the pastor, who i was addressing, wants to check into my advice he can.
 

blindvoyager

New Member
be careful not to lose your tax exempt status. the IRS is picky about political speech.
I think it really depends. I know I've seen a lot of conservative pastors openly endorse trump. and I know one of the past Qanon rallies with Flynn and Paul Goser was held at a church. There is a very fine line between religion and politics, because both have to do with morals and society. It is my understanding that as long as a church doesn't specifically endorse a candidate or political party by name, or contribute funds to a political party they are pretty safe. For example a church would be perfectly within their rights to give money to Planned Parenthood just as much as they could give it to the Red Cross. But I appreciate your concern. :)
 

deirdre

Senior Member.
I think it really depends. I know I've seen a lot of conservative pastors openly endorse trump. and I know one of the past Qanon rallies with Flynn and Paul Goser was held at a church. There is a very fine line between religion and politics, because both have to do with morals and society. It is my understanding that as long as a church doesn't specifically endorse a candidate or political party by name, or contribute funds to a political party they are pretty safe. For example a church would be perfectly within their rights to give money to Planned Parenthood just as much as they could give it to the Red Cross. But I appreciate your concern. :)


cool. i'm not concerned, i just felt guilty when i decided originally not to let you know.
 
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