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editorial that the law that bans churches from endorsing specific candidates, (the Johnson Amendment), should not be repealed.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  That is what the Johnson Amendment is all about, and it should not be repealed.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/

 

Religious Freedom bill may be just fine.

I respectfully disagree with Kevin Pokorny’s letter to the editor in the Register yesterday.  (See link below.)  The State of Iowa does need to amend its civil rights laws to allow buyers and sellers of products and services to peacefully follow their conscience when they have reasonable disagreements.
To the extent that a product or service is personalized or customized, it does infringe on the rights of a seller to force him or her to provide the product or service in such a way that goes against the seller’s sincerely held religious beliefs. If the products or services are readily available from a multitude of sellers, and a buyer can reasonably find what he or she wants from another seller, then it is not unreasonable to allow some sellers to follow their conscience.
In Iowa and other states, florists, photographers, bakers, and wedding venue operators have been forced to provide customized products and/or services for gay couples’ weddings.  Governments should never discriminate against gay marriage, and I personally have and do support giving gay marriage the same government rights and privileges as any other marriage.  But, private individuals, and the businesses they operate, should not be forced to provide customized or personalized services or products against their will.
FYI – I am a libertarian-minded atheist, and believe it is better to have peaceful voluntary solutions whenever possible, rather than to use the force of government to decide who will be winners and who will be losers.

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.

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.