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UCCtruths

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General Synod - Day 4

Monday, June 25, 2007

Barry Lynn: No Foul

According to Americans United for the Separation of Church and State Executive Director (and UCC ordained minister) Barry Lynn, the date you invite a candidate to speak decides whether or not the speech is a campaign speech that violates IRS codes:
In introducing the senator, UCC President John Thomas noted that the invitation was issued “more than a year ago” and that Obama was asked to speak on the “relationship between piety and politics.” Obama was also invited due to the simple fact that he may be the most high-profile member of the UCC denomination in American public life right now.
Lynn is clearly making up IRS provisions that do not exist. The IRS guidelines make no reference whatsoever to the timeline when a speaker is invited. Here is my response:
Truly unbelievable Barry.

From the IRS perspective, a political speaker at a religious event has one of two distinct roles: Either they are 1) speaking as a candidate for office or 2) speaking as a non-candidate.

Contrary to your claims, IRS code does not make a provision for speakers invited before they are candidates. Very simple.

If Obama was speaking as a non-candidate (since he was invited over a year ago before he declared) then his reference to campaign pledges if elected to office clearly violates IRS standard for separation.

According to the IRS, the church or religious organization must ensure that:

  • the individual speaks only in a non-candidate capacity, (Obama spoke as a candidate complete with campaign pledges)
  • neither the individual nor any representative of the church makes any mention of his or her candidacy or the election, and (Obama clearly did in his speech)
  • no campaign activity occurs in connection with the candidate’s attendance. In addition, the church or religious organization should clearly indicate the capacity in which the candidate is appearing and should not mention the individual’s political candidacy or the upcoming election in the communications announcing the candidate’s attendance at the event. (The tables were set up outside with the full knowledge of UCC staff and Obama (see pictures on UCCtruths.com). In addition, the UCC referenced his candidacy in news stories before General Synod).
This evidence is clear and plain.

If he was speaking as a candidate, IRS standards call for equal access by the other candidates for the same office… which didn’t appear to happen. In either case, his speeches before the Iowa Conference and the General Synod were a violation of IRS standards.

From the UCC perspective, there should be no confusion as they publicly advocate for the same rules on separation as AU. Furthermore, UCC leaders and conference ministers understood Obama’s status as a declared candidate for some time and, by virtue of their reporting on the Iowa speech a week earlier, also understood that Obama’s address would be a campaign speech. The UCC clearly and knowingly violated AU’s standard for separation.

On top of all of this, there is clear documentation and photographs that Obama organizers were recruiting supporters just outside of the Civic Center since 8am that morning.

UCC leaders were aware of attempts to recruit supporters. They were also aware of the contents of Obama’s speech since they reported on the same exact speech a week earlier.

Your logic (that the date you invite a candidate to speak dictates whether it’s a campaign speech) is not referenced in case law or IRS code.

There is certainly more to this story than you are reporting and I hope you’ll reconsider your decision.
posted by UCCtruths, Monday, June 25, 2007

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