Church free speech okay – no charitable tax deduction for donors

Churches and their leaders should be free to  speak out for or against candidates for political office.  Our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech for all, and especially for political or religious speech.
What our government should NOT do is allow a charitable tax deduction to donors who contribute money to churches that advocate for or against specific candidates.   If churches want to be treated just like other organizations that advocate for or against specific candidates, donors should be willing to give up their charitable tax deduction for contributions they make to those churches.
If churches are allowed to advocate for or against candidates and donors are given a charitable tax deduction for contributions made to such churches, then it would only be fair to give tax deductions to all donors to political organizations.  Better to not give the charitable deduction to any of them.
Related Register article:
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Churches should not be allowed to advocate for or against candidates

I agree with The Des Moines Register editorial that the law that bans churches from endorsing specific candidates, (the Johnson Amendment), should not be repealed.  (See link below.)

Once again though, you did not make clear the difference between all tax-exempt organizations and special 501c3 organizations.  Virtually all political parties, candidate campaign committees, and special interest organizations are tax exempt – they don’t pay income taxes.  But, people who donate money to these various political organizations do not get to deduct their contributions as a “charitable” deduction on their income taxes.
On the other hand, charities, churches and educational organizations are tax exempt under a special tax code section: 501c3.  People who donate money to 501c3 organizations get a charitable tax deduction for the amount of their contribution when computing their income taxes .
Churches, and church officials can advocate all they want about issues without violating the rules for 501c3 organizations.  What they cannot do is advocate for or against any specific candidate.  If they do advocate for or against specific candidates then they should be treated just like any other political organization: their donors should not get a charitable tax deduction for their contributions.  That is what the Johnson Amendment is all about, and it should not be repealed.

Link: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/editorials/2017/02/10/editorial-dont-eliminate-ban-politically-active-churches/97750512/

 

Not all tax exempt organizations are the same.

The Register still has it wrong. (“Churches cross line with political endorsements”, 4/9/2015 – see link below.)  Churches with ministers who advocate for specific candidates should be allowed to be tax exempt.  But donors who contribute to them should not get a charitable tax deduction.

There are two types of tax-exempt organizations. First, there are the Charitable, Religious and Educational organizations, (tax code 501c3 organizations), that pay no income taxes, (and often don’t pay other taxes), plus donors get a charitable tax deduction on their income taxes for the amount of their contribution.  Second, there are all other tax-exempt organizations that pay no income taxes, (and often don’t pay other taxes), but donors do NOT get a charitable deduction. They are properly classified as tax exempt, since they are organized to not make any kind of profit, but their activities are not charitable, so no charitable tax deduction is given.

There are many tax exempt organizations that do not make any profit, but that are not charitable and whose donors don’t get a tax deduction.  They include Rotary clubs, political parties, country clubs, political issue organizations, chambers of commerce, special interest clubs, etc.  None of them try to make any profit, but they are not charitable.

To the extent that any not-for-profit organization advocates for or against specific candidates, that organization is not doing charitable work. It is doing political work. Under the principle of equal treatment under the law, donors to churches that advocate for specific candidates should not get a charitable tax deduction.  If a church wants its donors to receive a charitable tax deduction for contributions made, then the minister should not advocate for candidates from the pulpit, or through any other communication from the church.

Link to Register editorial: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/editorials/caucus/2015/04/08/rgisters-editorial-churches-cross-line-political-endorsements/25500433/

 

Obama correct on Cuba policy.

President Obama should be commended for opening up diplomatic relations with Cuba.  It is clear that the 50 year old policy of embargo and isolation has not worked to end the communist dictatorship.  Yes, Raul Castro will try to use this change in U.S. policy to his advantage.  If only for practical reasons, the embargo should end and relations should be normalized.  As President Obama paraphrased, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  We need to do something different.
There are also important philosophical reasons why relations with Cuba should be normalized: people who act honestly and peacefully should not be prevented in their actions by the force of government.  Voluntary free trade, including tourism, is the best way to foster good will and build better friendships.  Allowing Cubans to interact more and more with U.S. citizens will ultimately change the opinions of the masses of Cubans. Hopefully, it will lead to a peaceful overthrow of the dictatorial regime similar to that of the U.S.S.R. and of East Germany.

Corporations are people, money is speech.

After witnessing the deluge of outside political advertising that inundated Iowa during this latest election cycle, it’s easy to conclude that our government should place limits on political contributions and political advertising.  But our Supreme Court correctly decided in the Citizens United case that governments should not be allowed to limit the independent political expenditures of groups of people, even if they are organized as corporations.
 
Most of the corporations that make independent expenditures for or against candidates or ballot issues are simply groups of like minded people who have come together to promote their common beliefs.  They are not profit-making corporations that run businesses and sell stock on Wall Street.  Citizens United is a group of people who are organized as a corporation explicitly for the purpose of promoting a political agenda.
 
If contributions are given directly to a candidate, there is good reason for concern about bribery and corruption.  But as long as people or groups are independent of candidates and their campaigns, they should be free to spend as much of their own money as they want, and they should not have to disclose the names of contributors.  Our founding fathers published pamphlets and other communications anonymously when they advocated against their rulers and called for a revolution.  They were very much thinking about political speech when they wrote in the 1st Amendment of the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”

 

Newspaper should be able to fire editor for expression of religious beliefs

The Des Moines Register reported today (7/24/2014) that, “An Iowa newspaper editor fired after publishing his views on homosexuals is claiming he was the victim of religious discrimination by his former employer.”  He has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  Editors of newspapers should not be protected by laws against discrimination in employment based on religious belief.  Newspapers are privately owned businesses that typically express the opinions of their owners.  They benefit our society by their independent advocacy regarding public policy.   They should not be forced by government to employ editors who hold beliefs contrary to their own – especially political or public policy beliefs.  Owners of newspapers should be free to fire editors at will, unless they have entered into an employment contract to the contrary.  For government to force a newspaper to continue to employ an editor is wrong and is bad public policy.

Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2014/07/23/newspaper-editor-fired-gaystapo/13047733/

Hobby Lobby decision correct.

A Supreme Court ruling today (6/30/2014) upheld our fundamental right to use our own private property in accordance with our own moral beliefs.  The ruling gives priority to natural religious and private property rights over the politically created guarantee that private business owners will provide employees with a health insurance benefit that covers certain birth control pills.

The owners of Hobby Lobby objected to the Obama Care legal requirement that they provide their employees with an insurance benefit that covered morning after “abortion” pills.  The law was in direct conflict with their sincerely held, honest and peaceful religious beliefs.  Hobby Lobby has never used force or fraud to get people to either work for or patronize their business.

Governments are the only organizations that can legally use force against peaceful people.  We created our government to use force, if necessary, to protect our fundamental right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.  Government force should not be used to make peaceful people act against their own religious beliefs – no matter how good the cause or the intentions.

By the way, I am a peaceful, honest, pro-choice, atheist, libertarian.