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   IRS sued over lack of enforcement of prohibition on electioneering by religious non-profits

15 Nov 2012 03:38 PM   |   17398 clicks   |   Some Guy
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DjangoStonereaver    [TotalFark]  
While I am in support of the tax-exemption for religious organizations (despite the abuse that it could
lead to), I vainly hope that this goes somewhere and that these asshat preachers who abused it lose
that status.

They won't, I'm sure, but I can pray for it, can't I?

15 Nov 2012 12:01 PM
Vodka Zombie     
It's pretty astounding and sick that we have to sue these morons to get them to do their jobs.

15 Nov 2012 12:05 PM
Cythraul     
I probably have a better chance at winning the lottery than a religious institution losing its tax-exempt status.

15 Nov 2012 12:09 PM
kronicfeld    [TotalFark]  
I don't know that I want to see a precedent set whereby one can sue the government for its exercise of prosecutorial discretion.

15 Nov 2012 12:09 PM
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.

15 Nov 2012 12:12 PM
CapeFearCadaver    [TotalFark]  

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.

15 Nov 2012 12:12 PM
EatHam    [TotalFark]  

Weaver95: if the law wasn't broken, then the pastors will have a chance to prove that fact.

 
I'm not sure that you're placing the burden of proof properly.

15 Nov 2012 12:17 PM
DamnYankees    [TotalFark]  

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.


This was my thought - who would have standing to bring this suit, exactly?

15 Nov 2012 12:17 PM
Angry Drunk Bureaucrat    [TotalFark]  

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.


I believe that would be a "Writ of Mandamus".

15 Nov 2012 12:17 PM
usernameguy     
Unfortunately I think what will happen is that the electioneering statute will be ruled unconstitutional.

15 Nov 2012 12:18 PM
Slaxl     
What's the function of exempting religion from taxes?

15 Nov 2012 12:19 PM
Cythraul     

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


Prevents your local priest from also being your tax collector?

15 Nov 2012 12:21 PM
DamnYankees    [TotalFark]  

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

Prevents your local priest from also being your tax collector?


The idea of a "tax collector" is hilariously old-fashioned.

15 Nov 2012 12:23 PM
MaudlinMutantMollusk    [TotalFark]  

Cythraul: I probably have a better chance at winning the lottery than a religious institution losing its tax-exempt status.


Yeah, this^

/and I don't play it

15 Nov 2012 12:25 PM
This Is Bold Text     
Good.

They want to use the government to force their will on women and gays

I want to use the government to force them to pay their fair share.

15 Nov 2012 12:25 PM
Raharu     
Tax.

All.

Religions.

Equally.

15 Nov 2012 12:26 PM
Weaver95     

EatHam: Weaver95: if the law wasn't broken, then the pastors will have a chance to prove that fact.
 
I'm not sure that you're placing the burden of proof properly.


this IS the IRS we're talking about....

15 Nov 2012 12:27 PM
hdhale     
That Jesus associated with a tax collector and recruited him to be a disciple was quite shocking in Biblical times, since tax collectors were considered to be only slightly above prostitutes on the social scale.

Least you think the IRS were the original "most hated"....

15 Nov 2012 12:28 PM
Elzar     
Religious folks believe and act upon ridiculous beliefs which have no physical evidence or scientific proof - isn't that punishment enough?

15 Nov 2012 12:32 PM
Bashar and Asma's Infinite Playlist     

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


Would depend on how long it takes to work it's way through the courts, if it has standing. Obama is going to flip the Supreme Court sometime in a few years.

15 Nov 2012 12:32 PM
GAT_00     
Sad that a lawsuit is necessary, but it's clear that religious groups are flagrantly violating the law. Remove the tax exemption.

15 Nov 2012 12:35 PM
GAT_00     

Bashar and Asma's Infinite Playlist: usernameguy: Unfortunately I think what will happen is that the electioneering statute will be ruled unconstitutional.

Would depend on how long it takes to work it's way through the courts, if it has standing. Obama is going to flip the Supreme Court sometime in a few years.


You have no proof that anyone will retire and no evidence that Obama will nominate a liberal to the bench.

15 Nov 2012 12:36 PM
EatHam    [TotalFark]  

GAT_00: Remove the tax exemption.


For all non profits, or are you going to say that no religious organization is allowed to be categorized as non profit?

15 Nov 2012 12:39 PM
xanadian    [TotalFark]  
Yeah, good luck with that.

15 Nov 2012 12:39 PM
Weaver95     

EatHam: GAT_00: Remove the tax exemption.

For all non profits, or are you going to say that no religious organization is allowed to be categorized as non profit?


if it were up to me? i'd have to go on a case by case basis. anyone who gets up there and starts endorsing candidates loses their exemption. anyone who avoids politics and/or keeps it vague (i.e. not endorsing a candidate) gets to keep their exemption.

messy and annoying but fair.

15 Nov 2012 12:41 PM
EatHam    [TotalFark]  

Weaver95: anyone who gets up there and starts endorsing candidates loses their exemption. anyone who avoids politics and/or keeps it vague (i.e. not endorsing a candidate) gets to keep their exemption.


I could very well be mistaken (and I'm sure that there will be plenty of people very happy to tell me if I am), but isn't it supposed to be that way for all non profits, not just religious ones?

15 Nov 2012 12:44 PM
The Stealth Hippopotamus    [TotalFark]  
img9.imageshack.usView Full Size


AMEN!!

15 Nov 2012 12:47 PM
Weaver95     

EatHam: Weaver95: anyone who gets up there and starts endorsing candidates loses their exemption. anyone who avoids politics and/or keeps it vague (i.e. not endorsing a candidate) gets to keep their exemption.

I could very well be mistaken (and I'm sure that there will be plenty of people very happy to tell me if I am), but isn't it supposed to be that way for all non profits, not just religious ones?


well yeah. problem is that we don't follow our rules that are already on the books. I just don't see the point of writing NEW rules when the ones we've got address the issue quite well. so the problem isn't with the rules...its with the IRS. why has the IRS not done it's job? is it politics? a structural issue? slow response? that's where I'd focus my attentions.

15 Nov 2012 12:51 PM
GAT_00     

EatHam: GAT_00: Remove the tax exemption.

For all non profits, or are you going to say that no religious organization is allowed to be categorized as non profit?


Religious organizations can apply to be non-profits. Almost none should be granted one.

15 Nov 2012 12:51 PM
Bashar and Asma's Infinite Playlist     

GAT_00: Bashar and Asma's Infinite Playlist: usernameguy: Unfortunately I think what will happen is that the electioneering statute will be ruled unconstitutional.

Would depend on how long it takes to work it's way through the courts, if it has standing. Obama is going to flip the Supreme Court sometime in a few years.

You have no proof that anyone will retire and no evidence that Obama will nominate a liberal to the bench.


It's estimated that one to three justices will retire, so you're right on that front. No hard evidence as of yet, but it's assumed that he's going to get a couple more picks. However there is evidence that he would pick liberal justices, considering he's had two picks already and they were more like Ginsburg than Scalia.

15 Nov 2012 12:52 PM
EatHam    [TotalFark]  

GAT_00: Religious organizations can apply to be non-profits. Almost none should be granted one.


I think that the problem you have is likely within the process.  They all do apply to be non profits, but there's a special streamlined application for them, and almost all are granted one immediately.  Also, they don't have the same burden of proof that others do.

15 Nov 2012 12:53 PM
NowhereMon     

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


It is essentially a truce between state and religion: "you leave us alone and we'll leave you alone". Seems fair enough to me, as long as both sides abide by it.

The constitution says:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

You'll note that it doesn't say anything about taxation. Exempting religious (and other) non-profits from taxation is an extra-constitutional courtesy, that can and should be enforced if you don't play by the rules.

This isn't just about religious groups, a lot of political organizations are organized as non-profits that get right up against the line between electioneering and not

15 Nov 2012 12:53 PM
GAT_00     

EatHam: GAT_00: Religious organizations can apply to be non-profits. Almost none should be granted one.

I think that the problem you have is likely within the process.  They all do apply to be non profits, but there's a special streamlined application for them, and almost all are granted one immediately.  Also, they don't have the same burden of proof that others do.


I don't think most of them are non-profits, so I doubt they'd pass a real process.

15 Nov 2012 12:56 PM
Cyberluddite    [TotalFark]  
The more basic issue than this for me is that I don't see how the IRS making churches exempt from taxation--or allowing individual taxpayers to take tax deductions for donations to churchs to support religious activities (such as Mitt Romney's millions of dollars each year in tithing that he's required to contributions to the Mormon Church to remain in good standing)--can be deemed to be allowable under the Establshment Clause of the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court keeps chipping away at Establishment Clause cases and allowing more and more religious intrusion into government activities (and vice-versa), but the basic premise at work here was set out 65 years ago in the Supreme Court's Everson v. Board of Education case as follows:

The "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment means at least this: neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups, and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect "a wall of separation between church and State."

Doesn't allowing Pat Robertson's TV network to be exempt from taxes--when every non-religious TV network pays taxes--amount to the government giving support to religous activities? If the income Billy Graham's organization makes from filling a football stadium on Friday for a prayer meeting is non-taxable, while the income the football team makes playing in that same location on Sunday is taxed, isn't that a form of government financial support for that religion? If a guy Mitt Romney can deduct $5 million a year in tithing to the Mormon Church--which is required of him to remain in good standing, like membership dues to a country club--then why can't the CEO of another company deduct the membership dues he pays each month to his country club, and isn't the government essentially officially endorsing going to church as a more important and necessary activity than, say, playing golf? That's not supposed to be the government's call, is it?

And, of course, for every dollar that a church doesn't pay in taxes, and every dollar that taxpayers save in taxes by deducting their church fees and donations, the government needs to collect a dollar somewhere else to make up for it--and it does so by making everyone else's taxes higher to make up what it loses in religion-related tax revenue. Isn't that essentially levying a tax on every non-religion business, and every person who doesn't contribute to a church, to support religion?

Not that it will ever be ruled as such, but I simply don't see how giving religious entities and religious contributions favorable tax treatment as compared to secular activities can be squared with the Establishment Clause.

15 Nov 2012 01:04 PM
Diogenes    [TotalFark]  

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.


For argument's sake, I'll say, "One man's prosecutorial discretion is another man's unequal application of the law."

15 Nov 2012 01:05 PM
The Stealth Hippopotamus    [TotalFark]  

Bashar and Asma's Infinite Playlist: It's estimated that one to three justices will retire, so you're right on that front. No hard evidence as of yet, but it's assumed that he's going to get a couple more picks. However there is evidence that he would pick liberal justices, considering he's had two picks already and they were more like Ginsburg than Scalia.


Scalia is going to wait to see how 2014 turns out but either way he's out after that.

Just my guess only

15 Nov 2012 01:05 PM
kronicfeld    [TotalFark]  

Angry Drunk Bureaucrat: I believe that would be a "Writ of Mandamus".


Mandamus is not applicable to discretionary acts, only ministerial.

15 Nov 2012 01:11 PM
Angry Drunk Bureaucrat    [TotalFark]  

kronicfeld: Angry Drunk Bureaucrat: I believe that would be a "Writ of Mandamus".

Mandamus is not applicable to discretionary acts, only ministerial.


Ah. Well then.

15 Nov 2012 01:14 PM
Cyberluddite    [TotalFark]  

EatHam: GAT_00: Remove the tax exemption.
For all non profits, or are you going to say that no religious organization is allowed to be categorized as non profit?


You didn't direct this question to me, but I'll answer anyway as a follow-up to my own post above: I'd say that if a religious group engages in any truly charitable activities with no religious component to them and no attempt to use those activities as a platform for advancing religion, as some of them do part of the time (food banks for the poor that are open to all regardless of religion, Red Cross type activities, etc.), then those activities and the funds used to support them should be considered nontaxable charitable activities, much in the way that private businesses sometimes set up nontaxable charitable foundations and other subentities to engage in those activities. But funds generated or donated to promote, recruit for, and support their particular brand of Invisible Sky WizardTM should not be given government tax support.

15 Nov 2012 01:15 PM
Three Crooked Squirrels    [TotalFark]  

The Stealth Hippopotamus: Bashar and Asma's Infinite Playlist: It's estimated that one to three justices will retire, so you're right on that front. No hard evidence as of yet, but it's assumed that he's going to get a couple more picks. However there is evidence that he would pick liberal justices, considering he's had two picks already and they were more like Ginsburg than Scalia.

Scalia is going to wait to see how 2014 turns out but either way he's out after that.

Just my guess only


Here are SCOTUS's ages:

Link

Ginsburg is ancient, but should feel free to step down comfortably anytime in the next 4 years, and will probably do so in the next 2. I'm guessing Kennedy steps down if the Senate gets a little more conservative in 2 years. That would suit his never ending desire to be in the middle. Scalia will hold out 4 years or die trying. In fact, regardless of who is president, I have a feeling Scalia is going to die on the bench. I'm guessing Breyer will step down if he sees any swing in the electorate toward the right to avoid having to do so in an election year or under a GOP president.

/My $0.02

15 Nov 2012 01:17 PM
GAT_00     

Cyberluddite: I'd say that if a religious group engages in any truly charitable activities with no religious component to them and no attempt to use those activities as a platform for advancing religion, as some of them do part of the time (food banks for the poor that are open to all regardless of religion, Red Cross type activities, etc.), then those activities and the funds used to support them should be considered nontaxable charitable activities, much in the way that private businesses sometimes set up nontaxable charitable foundations and other subentities to engage in those activities.


And I would not argue for a second against such a group being granted non-profit status. But I think you would maybe grant 1 in 100 that status.

15 Nov 2012 01:18 PM
EatHam    [TotalFark]  

Cyberluddite: But funds generated or donated to promote, recruit for, and support their particular brand of Invisible Sky WizardTM should not be given government tax support.


You wouldn't think that would count like the administrative overhead, just like advertising for the United Way or something?

15 Nov 2012 01:18 PM
Cyberluddite    [TotalFark]  

Three Crooked Squirrels: Ginsburg is ancient, 2


And was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer three years ago (but seems to have responded pretty well to surgery). Whether or not she lives a while longer, I suspect you're right that she won't be sticking around on the Supreme Court for very long. In fact, if it had looked like Obama was not going to be reelected, I'll bet she would've already quit.

15 Nov 2012 01:23 PM
GAT_00     

EatHam: Cyberluddite: But funds generated or donated to promote, recruit for, and support their particular brand of Invisible Sky WizardTM should not be given government tax support.

You wouldn't think that would count like the administrative overhead, just like advertising for the United Way or something?


I don't really consider the United Way non-profit anymore. After dealing with their efforts at a certain restricted area that I worked at this summer, they're just greedy farks who spend more money promoting themselves than helping.

15 Nov 2012 01:37 PM
Rincewind53     
Yeaaaah.... I'm sorry, but the court is going to grant summary judgement to the IRS for lack of standing. Sorry. That's it. This is just a more complicated press release.

15 Nov 2012 01:38 PM
namatad    [TotalFark]  

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.


this this more THIS and only farking THIS

15 Nov 2012 02:01 PM
Bashar and Asma's Infinite Playlist     

namatad: 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.

this this more THIS and only farking THIS


Doesn't matter. Even if a church ran the most transparently political campaign in history, the IRS wouldn't go near it with a ten-foot pole. You want to see the "war on religion" rhetoric amp up to eleven? You remove the tax exempt status of even one church, and you will see old people of all races rioting as fast as their Rascal scooters will let them. It would make the Tea Party seem like a fond memory with how much derp it would create.

15 Nov 2012 02:11 PM
Dusk-You-n-Me    [TotalFark]  

Bashar and Asma's Infinite Playlist: You want to see the "war on religion" rhetoric amp up to eleven?


Some days we're already there. Or,

I never saw a rich man who didn't wind up with a guilty conscience.

Already got a guilty conscience. Might as well have the money too.

15 Nov 2012 02:14 PM
coco ebert     

This Is Bold Text: Good.

They want to use the government to force their will on women and gays

I want to use the government to force them to pay their fair share.


Interestingly enough, I'm wondering if a group could similarly sue the government to enforce the federal ban on gay marriage or the federal ban on marijuana.

15 Nov 2012 02:15 PM
cman    [TotalFark]  
How does one have standing for such a suit?

15 Nov 2012 02:18 PM
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