Faith In Taxes

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Out of Ohio:
More than 30 local pastors last night officially accused two evangelical megachurches of illegal political activities.

In a rare and potentially explosive action, the moderate ministers signed a complaint asking the Internal Revenue Service to investigate World Harvest Church of Columbus and Fairfield Christian Church of Lancaster and determine if their tax-exempt status should be revoked.

The grievance claims that the Rev. Rod Parsley of World Harvest Church and the Rev. Russell Johnson of Fairfield Christian Church improperly used their churches and affiliated entities - the Center for Moral Clarity, Ohio Restoration Project and Reformation Ohio - for partisan politics, including supporting the Republican gubernatorial candidacy of Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.
The reason religious organizations receive tax exemption status is because public policy deems that they have a certain standing worthy of this consideration. In order to qualify for this consideration, religious organizations must follow the rules. Therefore, religious organizations have a choice, they can preach overt partisan politics and foregoe their tax exempt status or keep the overt partisan politics out and maintain their exempt status. Religious organizations shouldn't be able to buck the system and have it both ways. However, it's not that easy. As with credits/exemptions in general, the difficulty is always in the details. In this instance, making the distinction between overt political activity and general statements that happen to include politics is blurry. This blog has tackled the issue before and there's an insightful take on it over at A Taxing Matter.

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