Double Standards29 February, 2008
From The Carpetbagger Report
What’s less clear is why the IRS has decided to launch this specific investigation. The closer one looks, the more unusual this appears.
The Internal Revenue Service is investigating the United Church of Christ, saying the denomination may have threatened its tax-free status by allowing Sen. Barack Obama to speak before thousands of members at a church conference in June.
A lawyer for the church denied that the denomination, or Sen. Obama, who is a UCC member, engaged in any political activity when he and others spoke before an audience of 10,000 at the church’s 50th anniversary celebration in Hartford, Conn.
A spokesman for the Obama campaign, Tommy Vietor, said the candidate “spoke to his church’s convention about his personal spiritual journey…. This was not a campaign event.”
While investigations of individual congregations are not uncommon, for the IRS to go after an entire 1.2 million-member denomination is rather extraordinary.
Indeed, for the IRS to take such an unusual step, one might assume that the UCC’s conduct must have been extraordinarily controversial. But therein lies the rub: by all appearances, the UCC didn’t come close to running afoul of tax law.
Remember, the law says a ministry can’t “intervene” in a campaign. So, what happened in this case? The United Church of Christ, like many Protestant denominations, held an annual meeting. The UCC invited Obama, the Christian church’s most high-profile member, to speak about his perspective on the role of faith in public life, which he did.
Did Obama use his appearance as a campaign event? No. Did UCC officials use the opportunity to endorse his campaign? No. Did anything happen at the conference that amounted to “intervention” in a political campaign? Not as far as I can tell.
What we’re left with is an awkward set of circumstances — in an election year, the Bush administration’s IRS is investigating a liberal denomination for allowing the Democratic frontrunner to give a non-partisan speech. I’m hesitant to jump to the disconcerting conclusion — this investigation is politically motivated and intended to intimidate left-leaning religious leaders — but the evidence against the UCC in this matter is so thin, it’s hard not to question what prompted this investigation.
What’s worse, it wouldn’t be the first time questions very similar to these have come up.
It would be an outrageous abuse of power for the IRS to go after an entire religious denomination based on partisan political concerns, but given what we’ve seen of the Bush gang, it’s hard to offer the administration much in the way of benefit of the doubt.
During Watergate, we learned that Nixon used the IRS to harass and intimidate political opponents. Let’s hope this isn’t a repeat of the same abuse.
So the speeches that other candidates have given in churches and church conventions and meeting — Huckabee, McCain and Romney come to mind — will also result in investigations of those religious organizations, right? Or maybe Bush’s IRS is apologizing for having to investigate that moron over in California with the death threats agains AU.
Why hasn’t this been on the national news? Why isn’t this in the newspapers? The IRS has apparently decided that the tax laws are applied with extreme strictness if a church convention or meeting invites a Democratic candidate, but no a Republican. Sheesh.