Why the 501(c)(3) status for churches and religious organizations must go

I suppose that this particular post is not what one would expect as a “first” with all the Occupy events in the news these days, but this issue has been a thorn in my side for quite a while. As a life-long member of the LGBT community (and I can tell you it’s an orientation, not a choice), this is a particularly irritating issue in light of the efforts of the Catholic, Mormon and Christian Fundamentalist churches who put a great deal of money and effort into the whole Prop 8 fiasco.

I am Catholic by birth, Buddhist by choice. But frankly, I stay away from all organized religions. I like the basic tenets of Buddhism, and I am a great admirer of the Dalai Lama, but I do not spend my time attending Buddhist centers. And I long ago stopped going to Catholic churches for any reason (with the exception of weddings and funerals of people who are part of my life). When I was a child, churches tended to their “flocks,” or at least they gave the illusion that they were doing so. Perhaps they were indeed participating in the political process, but they were not doing so brazenly in violation of the IRS 501(c)(3) regulations, which clearly state that churches and religious organizations:

• must not devote a substantial part of their activities to attempting to influence legislation; and

• must not participate in, or intervene in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.

These rules have clearly been violated for many years, in particular, the endorsing of candidates for public office. For example, crackpot Pastor John Hagee of the Christian fundamentalist Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, endorsed John McCain back in 2008. The fundamentalist churches stealthily work through groups like the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council, which was recently classified as a “hate group” (and rightfully so) by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church minions routinely picket funerals of people who have died from AIDS, carrying their “God hates fags” signs. They even picketed the funeral of Steve Jobs because Apple was considered a “gay-friendly” company. There is a tendency to consider these people whack jobs and dismiss them. Perhaps that would be okay if they didn’t have so much influence over the political process, but it is dangerous to do so. The Christian fundamentalists have insidiously infiltrated the Republican Party and are intent on creating a new American theocracy. The GOP’s Value Voters Summit is a case in point. A thorough read of this issue on Theocracy Watch should be enough to scare the pants of anyone who believes in freedom of anything. 

The role of churches and religious organization in politics is not new. Access to birth control and abortions has long been a hot button, and it is amplified today because of the expanded role religion plays in politics. Anyone who grew up in Boston as I did will remember how Bill Baird was vilified because of his role in both issues. Now there’s a new target, and it’s same-sex marriage and basic LGBT civil rights. As the walls start falling, the churches are coming out of the closet and participating with reckless abandon.

Spreading hate through Prop 8

For me, the litmus test of just how much influence all churches have over the political process was never more evident than the whole Prop 8 fiasco. Evangelical Christians were joined by their pals in both the Catholic and Mormon (LDS) churches, as well as conservative black and Latino pastors (and smaller ethnic groups) to create an unholy alliance of epic proportions. While the Mormons were the last to join the fray, having been recruited by the Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco, they played a significant role, providing financial support ( including $5 million in member donations), institutional support, and dedicated volunteers who went door-to-door spreading their own brand of religious poison.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church contributed $1.4 million to the Yes on 8 campaign through the Knights of Columbus based in New Haven, Connecticut. While the good old K of C is largely seen as a charitable organization, it should be noted that nearly every Catholic bishop and priest is a member of this foul organization. An additional $200,000 was donated directly to Yes on 8 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

And to be sure, I find the Catholic participation in all this particularly disgusting, not because I was born and raised Catholic but because of their own dirty little pedophilia secret (which is not so secret anymore). Here they are, hypocritically worrying about gay marriage, when they spent years moving pedophile priests from parish to parish to have their way with children. As long as none of it became public, the powers that be didn’t care. To this day, no real punishment has been handed down, and the Catholic Church continues its bullshit justification for “handling” the situation the way it has. The Catholic Church has spent millions of dollars “settling” with families whose children were victims, but the church has never been required to hand over the names of the perpetrators to law enforcement. The private citizen pedophile is subject to prosecution; the pedophile priests apparently not. If the Catholic Church hasn’t been punished for these transgressions, why would we ever expect them to be punished for something as seemingly innocuous as participating in the political process in violation of IRS rules?

Emboldened and seeking more

Apparently, the Catholic Church isn’t done yet. Now the battle moves to Minnesota, where the pressure is on to write discrimination into the Minnesota constitution in the form of a gay marriage ban. While the religious right (read: The National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council) has been in the forefront calling for such legislation, the Catholic Archdiocese of Minnesota has promised to institute anti-gay marriage committees in every Catholic church in Minnesota and has vowed to do everything in its power to see that this amendment is included in the Minnesota constitution.

The basic principle of the separation between church and state is no longer blurred. It is clear that the line has been erased. For this reason, churches and religious organizations across the board should no longer receive the no-tax status benefits of 501(c)(3).

Sign the petition

To this end, I have written and posted a petition on Change.org  addressed to the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, The President of the United States, Representative Dan Camp (Chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation) and Senator Max Baucus (Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation) demanding the revocation of 501(c)(3) status for Christian, Catholic and Mormon churches. It is listed under the Human Rights category. While it may be a long shot, it is worth the effort. Please visit and sign, and pass it along:


Thanks for your support.

Author’s Notes:

I have published the IRS guidelines with regard to 501(c)(3) status of churches and religious organizations on my Scribd account. Please go here to view the PDF.


Categories: Churches, LGBT Civil Rights, Religious Organization, Religious Right

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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