Church and state: Leave politics outside the church

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Wednesday’s front page coverage of Raul Labrador’s political campaign gathering at Candlelight Christian Fellowship is astonishing!

After reading the article I did a little research and found an interesting piece in the Washington Post regarding federal tax laws and the church’s tax status. Excerpts follow:

Nonprofits — including religious organizations — have benefited from special treatment since the early days of the United States, under the rationale that they serve public goals in ways that for-profit groups might not: filling in for social services the state couldn’t provide and helping citizens establish themselves apart from a government bureaucracy. The Revenue Acts of 1909, 1913, and 1917 helped establish the modern federal income tax system, and in doing so, made sure to excuse nonprofit groups from paying taxes on any earnings they produced and any income donated to them. State and local governments generally followed suit.

Today, the IRS’s requirements for any group seeking tax-free status are relatively simple. The organization must be set up and operated “exclusively for religious, educational, scientific, or other charitable purposes,” its earnings shouldn’t benefit private individuals, it shouldn’t attempt to influence legislation or intervene in political campaigns, and its purpose and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy. The current IRS tax guide states that churches automatically qualify for federal income tax exemption under rule 501(c)(3) without even needing to apply.

So, many red flags… Did Labrador raise money at this campaign event inside the church and from its members? Was Labrador attempting to influence legislation? It was proudly announced his speech was part of his political campaign. Did his campaign pay for the use of the church? Was the church contributing to his political campaign by allowing the use of its facility? Could that be considered a political campaign donation in violation of federal law? Were church members breaking the law by attending/donating? Did the church leaders break the law by inviting Labrador to speak? If someone who blatantly violates the federal tax laws is asking to be given the highest governmental office in the state, what can we expect from him when it comes to every other law on the books? If a church violates federal law, are they perhaps also violating God’s laws?

I think I’ll stay at Unity Spiritual Center where everyone of every color, every faith, every sexual orientation and every political persuasion is welcome to come, pray, meditate, and study God’s word; and political talk and political meetings are forbidden. The Unity philosophy, “many paths to God, many names for God, many faces of God, but only one God, expressing through all creation” seems in line with the last sentence of the Declaration of Independence, ‘we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

The Forefathers were right, politics should be left outside the church.

• • •

Shirley Thagard is a Hayden resident.

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