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Thursday, March 27, 2008
More Equal Than Others
The other day I linked a story about an IRS investigation into Jeremiah Wright's church. There are certain things that those with 501(c)(3) tax exemption can't say, according to the tax code; my news source, Gribbit's World, explains:
You can advocate issues but you can't tell people to vote for those issues. You can tell people to vote according to the teachings of the Church but you cannot tell people how to actually vote. For instance, you can remind your congregation that your church is pro-life and that they should consider Church teaching when voting. But you cannot say vote for or against a candidate.
It's okay to say what to believe, but not how to vote. This distinction is best illustrated by think tanks such as Cato and Brookings, who are also 501(c)(3) organizations and whose very reason for existence is issues advocacy.
But there's a constitutional problem with this: we have a First Amendment that say that the rights to speech and press shall not be abridged. And there's also an equality under the law issue - people who get outright grants from the government have no speech restrictions placed upon them in exchange for those grants. When he was receiving agriculture subsidies, Sam Donaldson was not gagged the way that churches and think tanks are. Lobbyists get government taxpayer largesse all the time, and they have no such restrictions, obviously.
Personally, I think that all organizations should be tax-exempt. That would greatly simplify the tax code, and politicians would be robbed of one means of using the powers of the state to bribe their friends and beat up on their enemies. Of course, those who indulge in the intoxicants of power will not go along with such a plan.
For those politicians I have this song dedication:
Don't enjoy Jeremiah Wright's IRS woes too much. Your pastor could be next.
Update: Unfortunately, the video cuts out the last verse of the song, but all the important lyrics make it out there.