Why Isn’t the IRS Going After James Meeks?

Rev. James T. Meeks, a pastor and Illinois State Senator, is running for mayor of Chicago — he has little chance of winning — and the Chicago Tribune ran a front-page story yesterday about how he’s just egging the IRS to go after him:

Nearly every Sunday since announcing his bid for mayor, Meeks has taken to the pulpit to preach to the faithful at the 10,000-seat House of Hope about their religious duty to be civic-minded and support candidates who are guided by Christian values. It’s hard for those in the audience to miss the point that standing in front of them is just such a candidate.

Meeks says he’s long been mindful of the rules laid out by the Internal Revenue Service, but it’s clear he chafes at restrictions that prevent churches and other charitable groups from endorsing and contributing to political campaigns.

“If homosexuals can endorse a candidate, why can’t a church?” Meeks asked in his sermon last Sunday, days after he voted against a same-sex civil union law that the General Assembly passed.

*sigh*

Because homosexuals pay taxes and your church does not.

In exchange for that benefit, you don’t get to endorse candidates.

I don’t get why the IRS isn’t calling his bluff. Or the ACLU. Or Americans United for Separation of Church and State. He’s not denying anything. So go after him.

If churches want to endorse Christian candidates, they’re welcome to. But if they do, the government should get to tax the hell out of them.

Meanwhile, Meeks is one Democrat who won’t have my vote. Besides the fact that he’s a bigot, I have no desire to elect a pastor-in-chief. He’s done nothing to show that he can separate the two worlds.

It’d be nice to have a credible challenger to Rahm Emanuel just to keep things interesting, but Meeks isn’t the man to do it.

On a side note: I don’t understand how anyone who is so focused on social justice can work so hard to prevent gay people from obtaining equal rights. The mental gymnastics that have to go on for that to make sense must be incredible.

  • Lei

    Your reference to pastor in chief reminded me of this article about the Texas Speaker of the House: http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/12/11/2697686/if-straus-debate-is-not-about.html

  • Jon Peterson

    the government should tax the hell out of them.

    Maybe it’s the lack of sleep… but I just found this utterly hilarious. Mostly because (in my experience, anyway) a lot of Churches are committing hell-worthy bullshit on a weekly basis, and simply refuse to put their nose into the book they hold up on front of their congregation and actually READ where it condemns their actions.

  • Anonymous

    <3 u, Hemant!

  • Thegoodman

    I also find it confusing when democrats are christian. Every primary conservative platform preys on the christian majority.

    I cannot imagine how a person can identify as socially liberal and simultaneously attend services that are run by complete bigots. It’s mind bottling.

  • Silent Service

    Not all ministers are right wing bigots. Religion itself is not a Conservative Christian possession. We’re just used to hearing the worst from noisy right wing ministers.

  • http://www.unmails.com Tyler

    Who has the ACLU on speed-dial?

  • Synapse

    The answer is simple – to investigate a church requires the process to be initiated by the IRS Director.

    The current IRS Director is a Bush appointee who, like all GW appointees, is a rightwing nutjob put there to ensure that people will want “less government” by the end of their tenure.

    Get the IRS Director dumped, get a replacement confirmed by the Senate willing to investigate churches… oh wait – the Republicans would filibuster anyone who would admit to that..

    Sorry – you’re hosed.

  • Erp

    Remember that many (though not all) of the abolitionists fighting for slaves to be free and considered citizens opposed women being given the vote or being allowed other privileges that male citizens had.

  • PJB863

    The rules of tax exemption are pretty narrowly focused by the IRS code. They cannot endorse candidates nor make political donations to candidates or parties. They can exhort their sheeple to lobby legislators, and the clergy, as individuals, can endorse candidates.

    A good example of the latter was Cardinal George lobbying legislators in Springfield to vote against Civil Unions. It wasn’t the Archdiocese of Chicago, but the Cardinal doing the lobbying. But in the eyes of most people (and legislators) the Cardinal IS the Archdiocese.

    Churches find other ways around the rules too – they form and indirectly fund or provide in-kind support for their PACs, etc.

    The tax-exempt stuff is a real kicker too. Not only do they not pay state or federal income taxes, they do not pay sales tax, nor property taxes. Yet they use the services that these taxes support.

  • http://notapottedplant.blogspot.com/ Transplanted Lawyer

    “If homosexuals can endorse a candidate, why can’t a church?” Meeks asked in his sermon last Sunday, days after he voted against a same-sex civil union law that the General Assembly passed.

    *sigh*

    Because homosexuals pay taxes are citizens and your church does is not.

    In exchange for that benefit, you don’t Because a church is an entity and not a person, it doesn’t get to endorse candidates.

    FTFY.

  • LeAnne

    biggest facepalm of the day.
    “if homosexuals can endorse a candidate, why can’t a church?”

    that has to be THE STUPIDEST question i have ever heard.

  • Anonymous
  • Bob

    I don’t care if they pay taxes or not.

    I don’t want THEIR God in my Government, period.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ChristopherTK ChristopherTK

    Synapse,

    Regarding the IRS going after Meeks,

    I thought a complaint can be filed by any taxpayer causing an investigation to be started.

  • http://www.unmails.com Tyler

    @ChristoperTK

    I think the phrase is Qui Tam which is effective in the US. It allows citizens to bring suit on behalf of the united states but the citizen must be the “Original Source”. Also, the information can’t be publicly disclosed, but it looks like it is in the case.

    But I’m not a lawyer so I could be way off…

  • Serenity

    sigh.. I’ve never really understood why churches didn’t get taxed.. if they wanna save on taxes because they do charitable things then why can’t they get a deductible like you can when you donate stuff at Goodwill? But, I am ignorant of the reasons why they get out of paying taxes… anyone want to fill me in?

  • Steve

    If you think it’s bad how churches meddle in politics now, imagine how they would behave with mandatory taxation. There would be no limits at all!

    That’s why, in theory, it’s good that there is a choice. Either be tax-free and stay out of politics or do and pay taxes. It’s just not enforced.

  • http://chandays.blogspot.com Larry Meredith

    Because homosexuals pay taxes are citizens and your church does is not.

    In exchange for that benefit, you don’t Because a church is an entity and not a person, it doesn’t get to endorse candidates.

    Corporations are also entities, but they get to endorse candidates. So your argument that only citizens get to endorse candidates doesn’t hold much water..

  • Hypatia’s Daughter

    Either be tax-free and stay out of politics or do and pay taxes. It’s just not enforced.

    No. The IRS has different categories of tax-exemption, decided upon by our lawmakers. You cannot use money given to you for one purpose to support another purpose – money given to support the religious functions of a church cannot be diverted to promote a political goal. If some members of Meeks’ church want to start a non-profit to push for an amendment, that would be legal, but his church cannot use monies given to it to do so.
    I am the Treasurer of an astronomy club & file our taxes. The tax form specifically asks if we have used any of our income to support a political candidate or specific piece of legislation. We also have to calculate the % of our income that comes from sources unrelated to our primary function (such as interest, rental income or t-shirt sales). If the % is too high, this income would be taxable.
    Unfortunately, churches do not even have to file so there is no oversight as to how their funds are spent, except by the congregation.

  • Synapse

    “The IRS may begin a church tax inquiry only when the Director, EO Examinations reasonably believes that: ”

    Source on IRS.GOV

  • http://slrman.wordpress.com James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil

    There is nothing new here. All religions have consistently ignored the law and common decency when it suits their evil purposes.

    Yes, they expect a free ride on everything from taxes to breaking the law, to child abuse. That, by the way, includes brainwashing children into their sick beliefs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    Um, you said it yourself or rather the article you quoted did:

    Meeks says he’s long been mindful of the rules laid out by the Internal Revenue Service, but it’s clear he chafes at restrictions that prevent churches and other charitable groups from endorsing and contributing to political campaigns.

    Sounds like he’s being rather mindful of carefully obeying the letter of the law even while bitching about it. Therefore, they can’t go after him. He has to come out and say vote for me, not just allude to it.

    Yeah, I know. It’s a suckie gray area that he’s using to his fullest advantage but there it is. He probably has them watching him, waiting for him to slip up.

    Tax the goddamned churches already.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 Donna Hamel (muggle)

    Steve, there’s the limitation of their budget. There’s a reason they don’t just all voluntarily pay taxes and endorse from the pulpit to their heart’s content and, sadly, I don’t think it’s that the majority of their parishioners don’t really want them to. More like, they don’t really want to have to reveal what they’re taking in, let alone pay taxes on it. If people really knew how much they’re being scammed, they might be harder to scam.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ChristopherTK ChristopherTK

    Synapse, Tyler,

    Thank you.

  • sarah

    Chicago does not need a Minister Mayor. At all. I would rather have Daley forever than to have a Minister Mayor. Please get your religion out of my life. Not everyone believes in your myth!

  • http://selfra.blogspot.com dantresomi

    …AND churches bring down property value in my ‘hood because they don’t pay taxes.


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