ELSEWHERE: IRS to Pro-Life Group: Promise Us This, or No Tax-Exemption for You

I cannot believe that the IRS did this. Not because I do not think people can’t be this biased, but because the political and ethical ramifications of it should be dizzying.

About Brad Williams

Brad is the pastor of a Baptist church in a small town in Alabama. Brad has a lovely wife, two children, two dogs, a cat, a turtle, and five bee hives. Besides the incredible fact that he managed to persuade his wife to marry him, he is proud that he served six years in the Army National Guard, managed to graduate college with an English Lit. degree, graduate seminary, and finish the original Bard's Tale as a youngster by making maps on graph paper.

  • mroge

    Why should any religion be tax-exempt? Separation of church and state people! Many religious organizations rack in the money. I am not saying this about the good Rev who wrote this article, but the fact is that many religious organizations are not operated in an ethical manner. Perhaps the IRS said this because these organizations are trying to get involved with politics, which is something prohibited to getting tax-exempt status? There is a fine line there. It isn’t clear to me when personal ethics turns into politcal territory. As I said, I don’t think any religious organization should have tax-exempt status, with the possible exception of those devoted entirely to charity, such as feeding the poor.

    I also want to point out that as far as protests are concerned, many,people want the Westboro church thugs tax-exempt status removed and also to prohibit them from picketing funerals. If we are going in that direction then it seems like a logical extension to probit picketing of Planned Parenthood. Most women do not go there to get an abortion. I heard the story of one poor woman who had had a miscarriage and went there to get checked out and was bombarded with protesters claiming that she murdered her baby. Is that any less cruel than what Fred Phelps and his gang are doing?

    What I am saying is that this issue is more complicated than you think.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jbwilli1 Brad Williams

    Not really. Why should a Crisis Pregnancy Center have to swear not to protest another non-profit in order to be tax exempt. Why is the government in the business of deciding what an organization can or cannot protest? Did you actually read the linked article?

  • mroge

    Yes I did read the article. The issue is not about protecting another non-profit because they can protest all they want through a variety of venues. The problem is when they make a nuisance of themselves and even engage in harassing clients. After saying all this, I don’t know if the IRS can legally do this (actually they can see my post below), but I do think that they should be able to. Does planned parenthood protest pro-lifers and try to prevent them from getting services? Do they harass their clients? They may disagree with pro-lifers but they do not hold disruptive protests. Again look at Fred Phelps. Does he have the right to harass innocent people by picketing funerals? If you say no, then you have to look at whether it is okay for other groups to engage in the same behavior.

  • mroge

    Brad- I suggest you read THIS article about the rules set up for an organization to claim tax-exempt status. This goes back to a law that was instituted in 1975. If these pro-life people wanted to be a non-profit, then they should have known the rules before they applied:

    Why Did the IRS Demand Protest Info from Pro-Life Groups?

    From: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/05/21/

    (Note: I am having trouble posting the exact address, however you can do a search on it at the website)

    “Conservatives have been up in arms about IRS inquires which allegedly were overly intrusive as to the contents of their protest activity.

    There’s actually a common-sense, well-established answer as to why these questions are being asked. Sherman, let’s set the Wayback Machine to 1975, and take a look at IRS Revenue Ruling 75-384, in which the organization seeking tax-exempt status was described as follows:

    Advice has been requested whether a nonprofit organization formed to promote world peace and disarmament by nonviolent direct action including acts of civil disobedience qualifies for exemption from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954….

    Protest demonstrations are conducted at military establishments, Federal agencies, and industrial companies involved with military and defense operations. …The protest demonstrations constitute the primary activity of the organization. They are designed to draw public attention to the views of the organization and to exert pressure on governmental authorities. To derive the maximum publicity of an event, demonstrators are urged to commit acts of civil disobedience. Participants deliberately block vehicular or pedestrian traffic, disrupt the work of government, and prevent the movement of supplies. These activities are violations of local ordinances and breaches of public order. Incidental to demonstrations, leaflets are dispersed presenting the views of the organization. So, can you obtain tax-exempt status under such facts? Hells no, rules the IRS. Not as a 501(c)(3):

    In this case the organization induces or encourages the commission of criminal acts by planning and sponsoring such events. The intentional nature of this encouragement precludes the possibility that the organization might unfairly fail to qualify for exemption due to an isolated or inadvertent violation of a regulatory statute. Its activities demonstrate an illegal purpose which is inconsistent with charitable ends. Moreover, the generation of criminal acts increases the burdens of government, thus frustrating a well recognized charitable goal, i.e., relief of the burdens of government.And not as a 501(c)(4) either:

    Section 1.501(c)(4)-1(a)(2)(i) of the regulations provides that an organization is operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare if it is primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the people of the community. An organization embraced within this section is one which is operated primarily for the purpose of bringing about civic betterments and social improvements.

    Illegal activities, which violate the minimum standards of acceptable conduct necessary to the preservation of an orderly society, are contrary to the common good and the general welfare of the people in a community and thus are not permissible means
    of promoting the social welfare for purposes of section 501(c)(4) of the Code. Accordingly, the organization in this case is not operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare and does not qualify for exemption from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(4).Got it? Protest groups were asked these questions to ensure their protests were legal. That’s all this is.

    (N.B. Other IRS activities in singling out conservative groups by name were plainly more problematic than this.)”

    *In regards to this last part, Brad, one or the reasons why conservative groups have been targeted is simply because many of them are known to break the tax code by labeling themselves as social welfare agencies rather than political groups. That way they do not have to report large contributions when other political groups have to. It is in everyone’s best interest to know where this money comes from and who is making these contributions. Furthermore many have lied about where their contributions have gone to. If they are spending this money towards political causes rather than charitable causes then they are lying to both the government and the donors.

    Again, this issue is far more complicated than you think…..