Thursday, February 28, 2008


After church member and Presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke at a United Church of Christ convention the IRS is threatening to strip the denomination of its tax exempt status. However, the mayor of Hartford, Connecticut has asked elected officials to intervenes:
Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez asked Congress today to investigate the IRS' threat to strip the United Church of Christ of its tax-exempt status over Barack Obama's speech to a church convention in Hartford in 2007.

"If the IRS is successful, every church synagogue and mosque that invites an elected official to speak on issues such as the war in Iraq, abortion, the environment, labor and other issues of social justice could fear loss of their non-profit status," Perez said.

He is asking U.S. Sens. Christopher Dodd and Joseph Lieberman and U.S. Rep. John B. Larson to intervene.

"This IRS action should outrage members of both parties and people of faith throughout the country," Perez said.

A letter from the IRS to the church says candidates are permitted to speak at church functions, but if a candidate is speaking "in his or her capacity as a candidate, then other candidates running for the same office must also be invited."

The church says Obama, a UCC member, was one of 60 speakers from many fields invited to talk about the intersection of their faiths and vocations. He was invited a year before becoming a presidential candidate.

It seems to me the IRS doesn't really have a leg to stand on. Obama is a member of the UCC, and he was invited well before he became a candidate. All political office holders are perpetual candidates anyway. Now certainly churches do not need to become simply political arms of either party, which can be a real danger, but this seems to be a tempest in a teapot.

1 comment:

Robert said...

Our pastor atttended the conference in Hartford. He noted that in addition to Sen. Obama, speakers included Lynne Redgrave and Bill Moyers. He noted the Senator’s remarks did not concern politics.

He did state there were some campaign tables but they were well outside the conference facilities and were on public sidewalks.

This would all seem to be well outside the IRS scrutiny.

As tax time does draw near for many Americans, these controversies are also reminiscent of Christ's Tax Return itself as noted by that First Century CPA Saint Matthew, in The Gospel According to Saint Matthew 17:24-27 .

'... "What do you think, Simon?" he asked. "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes - ”from their own sons or from others?"

"From others," Peter answered.'

Peter and Jesus had to go fishing for their tax money.

Maybe this time it is the IRS which has nothing to do but fish.