Texas church accused of violating IRS rules


A local Catholic church appears to have violated IRS rules — and Catholic doctrine — by endorsing a presidential candidate in a church bulletin.

St. Raphael Catholic Church on the city’s East Side might have violated an Internal Revenue Service rule that prohibits tax-exempt churches from taking sides when it comes to candidates seeking political office in its Aug. 5 bulletin.

“I am asking all of you to go to the polls and be united in replacing our present president with a president that will respect the Catholic Church in this country,” the end of the entry in the bulletin says. “Please pass this on to all of your Catholic friends.”

The IRS won’t comment on individual complaints, but its publication, “Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations,” says, “Churches and religious 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.”

The item in St. Raphael’s bulletin clearly violates those rules, said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, a Washington, D.C.-based group that argues that separation of church and state protects religion as well as government.

Lynn said the item encouraging parishioners to vote against President Barack Obama was an official communication of the church.

“What’s more official than the churchbulletin?” he asked.

Monsignor Francis J. Smith, pastor of St. Raphael Catholic Church, couldn’t be reached for this story.

But the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, which oversees St. Raphael, acknowledged in an email that the entry in the bulletin was inappropriate.

“Churches and other nonprofits are strictly prohibited from engaging in political campaigning/endorsement of a particular candidate,” said Deacon Carlos Rubio, vice chancellor of the diocese. “The Diocese of El Paso is aware of this requirement from the IRS and mindful that it does not violate such norms.”

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