Prop 8 Lawyers Push To Remove IRS Rules Prohibiting Churches From Campaigning
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), the conservative Christian lawyers who are supporting Prop 8 in federal court, are beginning a push to force the IRS to end its regulations that prohibit churches and other religious institutions from campaigning. Currently, to retain a tax-exempt status, churches and religious leaders are not allowed in their official capacity to campaign for or against a specific candidate.
Unfortunately, this regulation is observed more and more infrequently, as exhibited recently in today’s NY-9 special election to fill the seat of former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner. A group of 40 orthodox rabbis issued a letter stating it was a violation of Jewish law to vote for the Democratic candidate, David Weprin, who had voted in favor of same-sex marriage earlier this year.
â€œPastors and churches shouldnâ€™t live in fear of being punished or penalized by the government,â€ said ADF SeniorÂ LegalÂ Counsel Erik Stanley, according to an article inÂ The Church Report. â€œKeeping the gospel central to what is preached is not in conflict with addressing the subject of political candidates when warranted. These results show that the desire to keep the gospel central does not mean that pastors want the IRS to regulate their sermons under the threat of revoking their churchâ€™s tax-exempt status.â€
And if you don’t currently have an opinion on this, remember:
Every dollar not paid by churches or other religious organizations must be made up from some other source. When all tax exemptions are taken into account, it is estimated that the average family may pay up to $1,000 in extra taxes every year to make up for the lost revenue not received from churches and religious groups.
ADF recently teamed with LifeWay Research and just released the results of a survey conducted last month that unsurprisingly finds that 86% of pastors surveyed disagreed with this statement:
â€œThe government should regulate sermons by revoking a churchâ€™s tax exemption if its pastor approves of or criticizes candidates based on the churchâ€™s moral beliefs or theology.â€
The survey also finds that 79% of pastors strongly disagreed with the statement.
TheÂ Kansas City StarÂ reports:
As pastors speak out on political matters, they’ve drawn admonitions from groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which warns that such activism could jeopardize their churches’ nonprofit status. But the religious leaders are bolstered by well-funded Christian legal organizations supporting their cause.
The most prominent – the Alliance Defense Fund, a group based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that spent $32 million in 2010 – is challenging a 1954 tax code amendment that prohibits pastors, as leaders of tax-exempt organizations, from supporting or opposing candidates from the pulpit. The fund sponsors Pulpit Freedom Sunday, in which it offers free legal representation to churches whose pastors preach about political candidates and are then audited by the Internal Revenue Service. (So far, no IRS investigations have been triggered.)
Last fall, 100 churches participated – up from 33 in 2008. This year’s Pulpit Freedom Sunday scheduled for Oct. 2, is expected to draw more than 500 churches.
“Unfortunately, there are groups out there who try to scare pastors into censoring themselves,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of the Texas-based Liberty Institute, a legal defense group, who said he’s been increasingly fielding calls on the topic from preachers. “My encouragement is, ‘Don’t be intimidated from fulfilling what God is calling you to do.’ “
Americans United for Separation of Church and State reports:
Anyone who believes the Religious Right is old news needs to read yesterdayâ€™s Los Angeles Times story by reporters Tom Hamburger and Matea Gold. Itâ€™s an excellent overview of how theocratic groups are gearing up for 2012.
Consider Iowa, for example â€“ a state that plays an important role in the presidential election process. The Religious Right is strong in Iowa and scored an important victory in 2010 when it mobilized a church-based campaign to remove three justices from the Iowa Supreme Court. Fundamentalist church leaders were angry that the state high court had voted to approve same-sex marriage. They used a retention election (usually a quiet, non-controversial affair) to kick the judges out.
In the wake of a victory like that, we can be assured that the Religious Right wonâ€™t be sitting out 2012 in Iowa â€“ or in other states.
As Hamburger and Gold note, â€œa growing movement of evangelical pastorsâ€¦are jumping into the electoral fray as never before, preaching political engagement from the pulpit as they mobilize for the 2012 election.â€
They continue, â€œThis new activism has substantial muscle behind it: a cadre of experienced Christian organizers and some of the conservative movementâ€™s most generous donors, who are setting up technologically sophisticated operations to reach pastors and their congregations in battleground states.â€
The Times quotes Rob Stein, a Democratic Party strategist, who remarked, â€œThe Christian activist right is the largest, best organized and, I believe, the most powerful force in American politics today. No other political group comes even close.â€
The emphasis goes far beyond Iowa. Religious Right strategists are targeting a number of swing states for 2012. They include Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Colorado and others.
Backed with cartloads of cash from national far-right organizations, local groups of fundamentalist pastors are using new technologies to spread a partisan political message. I saw evidence of this myself in June at Ralph Reedâ€™s Faith & Freedom Coalition meeting, where right-wing political strategists talked openly about ways to harness the power of churches and church-goers to get the â€œrightâ€ candidates elected.
Every time Americans United raises this issue, critics carp that weâ€™re trying to stop conservative evangelicals from taking part in politics.
Itâ€™s not true. We acknowledge that everyone has the right to participate in politics. But, when theocratic groups use big bucks from shadowy donors and far-right fat cats to forge churches into a partisan political machine with the aim of enacting legislation to make a narrow form of fundamentalism the law of the land, people deserve to know about that.
Secondly, some of the activities being undertaken here may be illegal. Houses of worship are free to speak out on political and social issues, but â€“ as tax-exempt organizations â€” they are not permitted to become political action committees that seek to elect (or defeat) certain candidates. Under federal tax law, no non-profit organization can do that.
Yet that is exactly whatâ€™s happening in some churches. In 2010, several Iowa churches openly organized campaigns to remove the Iowa Supreme Court justices from office. Every fall, the Alliance Defense Fund, a Religious Right legal group, prods pastors to flagrantly violate the law by using their pulpits to endorse or oppose candidates.
But there are small signs of hope. Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, Forbes just reported, “has asked ‘why a clergy member needs a tax-free allowance for more than one home, and whether tax-exempt churches should subsidize millionaire ministers’.â€
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'GOOD LUCK WITH THAT'
‘Trying to Have It Both Ways’: Ivanka ‘Flailing’ as Trump Indictment Slams Family
While Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump have taken to their social media platforms to viciously lash out at Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for indicting their father on a reported 30 charges, Ivanka Trump posted a rather muted statement on her Instagram account which simply said, “I love my father, and I love my country. Today, I am pained for both. I appreciate the voices across the political spectrum expressing support and concern.”
According to Daily Beast conservative columnist Matt Lewis, the so-called “First Daughter,” who served in the White House with her father, is trying to stay true to her former president dad, while distancing herself from his legal problems — and it is not going to work for her.
As Lewis put it, Ivanka is “flailing” in her attempts to shed the memory of her participation in the Trump administration that reached its lowest point on Jan. 6 when supporters of Trump stormed the Capitol and sent lawmakers fleeing for their lives.
“It’s hard to argue with anything Ivanka says here, but it is not a statement of moral clarity. Nor is it (conversely) a statement of strong support for her father. She’s flailing and trying to have it both ways,” Lewis wrote before adding, “Now, it’s understandable that a daughter might not want to utterly condemn her father. Further, children are not responsible for their parents’ sins. Except, of course, if you consider the fact that Ivanka served as the primary weapon in the ‘Trump’s not such a belligerent pig as his four decades as a public figure would make you think’ propaganda push.”
RELATED: Trump is so ‘unmoored from reality’ he can’t act as a defense witness: ‘Art of the Deal’ ghostwriter
Noting that Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner — who has baggage of his own — both stuck with Trump in the White House for all four years, Lewis added, “As far as the former first daughter goes, she and her husband might be done with politics, but once you’ve been a party to an administration like Trump’s, it’s going to be a long time before politics is done with them.”
“So, Ivanka, you want to have a seat at the cool apolitical kids’ table? You want to be once again accepted by the socially liberal billionaires’ children you used to go to the Hamptons with and now have Miami Beach playdates with? You want to enjoy the privileges of being a Trump with none of the shame? Good luck with that,” he concluded.
You can read more here.
Dominion Wins ‘Blockbuster Victories’ Against Fox News – Last Legal Issue Will Be Decided by a Jury: Report
Dominion Voting Systems won what are being called “blockbuster victories” Friday afternoon when a judge ruled the company suing Fox News for $1.6 billion in a major defamation lawsuit had met its burden of proof that Rupert Murdoch‘s far-right wing cable channel had repeatedly made false statements.
The final, and likely greatest legal issue Dominion will have to prove will be actual malice. That issue will be decided in a jury trial, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis ruled Friday, according to Law & Crime.
Unlike previous cases, Fox News will reportedly not be able to argue the on-air statements its personalities made were opinion.
CNN legal analyst and Brookings senior fellow Norm Eisen calls Friday’s decision a “huge win for Dominion on their summary judgment motion against Fox News.”
READ MORE: Capitol Police Issue Warning Over Possible Trump Protests ‘Across the Country’
“Dominion won partial summary judgement that what Fox said about them was false! Now they just have to prove actual malice and damages,” Eisen says. “Meanwhile Fox’s motion was totally denied.”
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, an MSNBC contributor adds: “Dominion’s evidence Fox made false statements with reckless disregard is as strong as any I’ve seen.”
The judge was very clear in his ruling.
“While the Court must view the record in the light most favorable to Fox, the record does not show a genuine issue of material fact as to falsity,” Judge Davis wrote. “Through its extensive proof, Dominion has met its burden of showing there is no genuine issue of material fact as to falsity. Fox therefore had the burden to show an issue of material fact existed in turn. Fox failed to meet its burden.”
READ MORE: ‘Propaganda Network’: Media Reporter Says Dominion Filing Exposes Fox News as ‘Void of the Most Basic Journalistic Ethics’
Attorney and MSNBC host and legal analyst Katie Phang points to this key passage in Judge Davis’ ruling.
Dominion has won the argument on the issue of falsity, meaning that as the Court funds below, “it is CRYSTAL clear that none of the Statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true.” pic.twitter.com/7lKEspN0WI
— Katie S. Phang (@KatiePhang) March 31, 2023
Court watchers and news junkies are familiar at this point with the massive legal filings Dominion has made in which it exposed how Fox News knowingly made false statements regarding the 2020 presidential election. Those filings, each hundreds of pages, also detail internal Fox News communications and bombshell conversations between the company’s top personalities, executives, and even Chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Image of Rupert Murdoch via Shutterstock
RIGHT WING EXTREMISM
Capitol Police Issue Warning Over Possible Trump Protests ‘Across the Country’
The U.S. Capitol Police and the Senate Sergeant at Arms on Friday jointly issued a statement warning they “anticipate” Trump protests across the country. The statement is not time-specific, and it states it has no information on “credible threats,” but some Democratic offices are allowing staffers to work from home Friday and Tuesday.
“The Sergeant at Arms and United States Capitol Police (USCP) anticipate demonstration activity across the country related to the indictment of former President Trump. While law enforcement is not tracking any specific, credible threats against the Capitol or state offices, there is potential for demonstration activity. USCP is working with law enforcement partners, so you may observe a greater law enforcement presence on Capitol Hill,” the statement reads.
“The SAA and USCP are monitoring the potential nationwide impacts to Senate state offices,” it adds.
The House Sergeant at Arms was conspicuously absent from the statement. Speaker Kevin McCarthy has control over that office.
READ MORE: Trump Trial Could Go Well Into the 2024 Election – Or Possibly Even Past It: Former Prosecutor
Additionally, Axios is reporting, “several House Democrats are allowing staffers to work from home as a safety precaution,” noting that “the memory of Trump supporters ransacking the Capitol on Jan. 6 is still fresh on the mind.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) is allowing staff to work from home for safety reasons. She told Axios, “I don’t ever want to see a Jan. 6 again.”
“I’ve been in the Trump hate tunnel, Donald Trump has gone after me, and quite frankly I don’t have security. I don’t have entourages.”
She’s not the only Democrat to raise concerns.
“Much of the language from the former President and his devotees is similar to what inspired Jan. 6th,” U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips said. “I’m concerned about safety for my colleagues and my staff.”
READ MORE: ‘Lighting the Match’: Marjorie Taylor Greene Blasted for Off the Rails Rant Defending Trump
Meanwhile, House Republicans are issuing full-throated support for Trump and calling for protests.
U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who was called out by name in a six-page letter Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg sent to Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan Friday morning, announced she will be in New York on Tuesday to support Trump when he is arraigned. She has posted several tweets since Trump was indicted.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy issued a statement Thursday seemingly designed to gin up rage and action in the MAGA base.
“Alvin Bragg has irreparably damaged our country in an attempt to interfere in our Presidential election. As he routinely frees violent criminals to terrorize the public, he weaponized our sacred system of justice against President Donald Trump. The American people will not tolerate this injustice, and the House of Representatives will hold Alvin Bragg and his unprecedented abuse of power to account.”
Image by Elvert Barnes via Flickr and a CC license
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