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Prop 8 Lawyers Push To Remove IRS Rules Prohibiting Churches From Campaigning

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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.

“Pastors and churches shouldn’t live in fear of being punished or penalized by the government,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley, according to an article in The Church Report. “Keeping 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 church’s tax-exempt status.”

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:

“The government should regulate sermons by revoking a church’s tax exemption if its pastor approves of or criticizes candidates based on the church’s moral beliefs or theology.”

The survey also finds that 79% of pastors strongly disagreed with the statement.

The Kansas City Star 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 yesterday’s Los Angeles Times story by reporters Tom Hamburger and Matea Gold. It’s an excellent overview of how theocratic groups are gearing up for 2012.

Consider Iowa, for example – 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 won’t be sitting out 2012 in Iowa – or in other states.

As Hamburger and Gold note, “a growing movement of evangelical pastors…are jumping into the electoral fray as never before, preaching political engagement from the pulpit as they mobilize for the 2012 election.”

They continue, “This new activism has substantial muscle behind it: a cadre of experienced Christian organizers and some of the conservative movement’s most generous donors, who are setting up technologically sophisticated operations to reach pastors and their congregations in battleground states.”

The Times quotes Rob Stein, a Democratic Party strategist, who remarked, “The 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.”

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 Reed’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 “right” candidates elected.

Every time Americans United raises this issue, critics carp that we’re trying to stop conservative evangelicals from taking part in politics.

It’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 – as tax-exempt organizations — 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 what’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’.”

Why, indeed?

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News

Raphael Warnock Beats Trump-Backed Herschel Walker – Democrats Increase Senate Majority

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Millions of Americans in Georgia voted to re-elect Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock and send him back to Washington D.C., NBC News projects. It is a clear mandate for the policies enacted by the Biden administration and a strong rebuke for the flailing former president, Donald Trump.

Senator Warnock faced a challenge from a Texas Republican who claimed to live in the Peach State, Trump-backed former NFL star Herschel Walker.

The New York Times, confirming Warnock is the projected winner, reports a huge number of Georgians, more than 3.3 million, voted in the runoff election.

An admitted Texas resident, Walker’s long list of hypocritical claims and actions, falsehoods, lies, and troubling business and tax dealings were only outweighed by the women who accused him of violent behavior, pressuring them and paying for them to get abortions, and revelations he had not one child but four, including a son he almost never sees.

READ MORE: ‘Everything Has Been a Lie’: Christian Walker Drops Damning New Video Blasting His Father’s ‘Lies’ Over Abortion

Warnock, who is also the Senior Pastor at the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s church, Ebenezer Baptist, out-raised and out-campaigned Walker, especially in the last week.

Herschel Walker appeared at only two events this weekend, Politico reported, “a tailgate in Atlanta before a University of Georgia football game on Saturday, where he did not speak, and a Sunday rally in Loganville, where his stump speech touched on everything from complaints about pronouns and critical race theory to funding law enforcement.”

With 51 votes in the Senate, Democrats will not be forced into a power-sharing agreement with Republicans as they were two years ago. President Biden will be able to nominate and have confirmed even more judges, an area he has excelled. And Democrats will have full committee majorities, giving them power to issue subpoenas in investigations.

RELATED: ‘The Child Would Not Be Safe’: Woman Who Says Herschel Walker Pressured Her to Have Abortion Says She Felt ‘Threatened’

The Washington Post on Tuesday noted that Democrats having 51 votes is “an insurance policy against the unthinkable — the possibility that vacancies or party switches could flip the majority. That has happened before, most recently in 2001. The reason that it hasn’t happened more often is mostly because the Senate isn’t usually this closely divided. But vacancies and seat flips do happen — a lot. In fact, since World War II, about 70 percent of Congresses have featured some kind of shift in partisan balance of the Senate between elections.”

The unthinkable includes the possibility that a Democratic Senator in a state headed by a Republican governor could resign or die, allowing a Republican to be installed in their place. As The Post notes, there are 11 cases currently where that could happen.

Warnock unseated a GOP Senator in a 2020 special election, making this his first full elected six-year term.

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain notes President Biden “becomes the first President since FDR 1934 to see every Senator in his party re-elected (who was seeking re-election.)”

 

 

 

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CRIME

Guilty on All Counts: Trump Organization Loses Big in Criminal Fraud Case

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A jury has found thew crown jewel of Donald Trump’s real estate empire, The Trump Organization, guilty on all counts in a state criminal tax fraud case.

Calling it “a remarkable rebuke of the former president’s company and what prosecutors described as its ‘culture of fraud and deception,'” The New York Times reports the details include “conviction on all 17 counts.”

Charges include tax fraud, a scheme to defraud, and conspiracy and falsifying business records, but The Times says it is “hardly a death sentence for the Trump Organization.”

The Times adds the conviction comes “after more than a day of jury deliberations in State Supreme Court in Manhattan,” which “resulted from a long-running scheme in which the Trump Organization doled out off-the-books luxury perks to some executives: They received fancy apartments, leased Mercedes-Benzes, even private school tuition for relatives, none of which they paid taxes on.”

Donald Trump was not a defendant in the case, but the case will be front and center during his presidential run.

According to a press release from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, The Trump Organization and the Trump Payroll Corp. were convicted of the following charges:

  • Scheme to Defraud in the First Degree, a class E felony, one count
  • Conspiracy in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, one count
  • Criminal Tax Fraud in Third Degree, a class D felony, two counts
  • Criminal Tax Fraud in the Fourth Degree, a class E felony, one count
  • Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, a class E felony, three counts

The Trump Corporation was also convicted of Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, a class E felony.

MSNBC reported the verdict on-air:

This is a breaking news and developing story. Details may change. 

Image via Shutterstock

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Watch: McConnell Refuses to Say He Will Not Support Trump for President Even After ‘Terminate the Constitution’ Demand

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Even after Donald Trump called for the “termination” of the U.S. Constitution this weekend and demanded he be put back into office or be given a do-over national presidential election, Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is refusing to say he will not support the ex-president’s current run for the White House.

McConnell kicked off his weekly press conference Tuesday by mildly criticizing Trump, although not mentioning him by name.

“First, let me just say that anyone seeking the presidency who thinks that the Constitution could somehow be suspended or not followed, it seems to me would have a very hard time being sworn in as president of United States,” McConnell told reporters.

But when asked if he “categorically” would refuse to support Trump – personally or in his role as Senate Republican Minority Leader – McConnell refused to go that far.

READ MORE: Watch: McConnell and McCarthy Shunned as Congressional Gold Medal Recipients Refuse to Shake Their Hands

“This is the second week in a row you’ve come out to begin your press conference criticizing Donald Trump,” a reporter off-camera said. “Can you say categorically that you do not support him if he were the Republican nominee?”

McConnell could not.

“What I’m saying is it would be pretty hard to be sworn in, to the presidency, if you’re not willing to uphold the Constitution. That’s what I said, and I just said it again,” McConnell stated.

“How about your personal support?” the reporter shot back.

McConnell ignored the question.

During the 2016 campaign Trump also made clear he did not feel beholden to upholding the Constitution, so it’s unclear why McConnell would suggest he could not be sworn in again should he be elected in 2024.

READ MORE: Far Right Republican Slammed by Raskin for Trying to Derail Respect for Marriage Bill with Failed Religious Amendment

In fact, Trump’s concerning remarks surrounding the Constitution in 2016 led Brown University political science professor Corey Brettschneider to pen a piece for Politico: “Trump vs. the Constitution: A Guide.”

“It may be true that Donald Trump has read the Constitution. But it’s unclear if he understands it,” it begins.

McConnell is not only the second longest serving leader of a party’s caucus in the Senate, nor his he just the Senate Republican Minority Leader.

He wields massive power and influence via his ties to a Super PAC.

According to CNN, the Senate Leadership Fund is “a super PAC affiliated with Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.”

This year alone, the Senate Leadership Fund has spent nearly $300 million to elect Republicans to the U.S. Senate. In 2020 it spent over $475 million.

Many have seen their ads, which are almost entirely, according to Open Secrets, against Democrats, not for Republicans.

Watch McConnell below or at this link.

 

 

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