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UCCtruths

Every denomination needs one of these...

IRS complaint filed against the United Church of Christ

Monday, August 27, 2007

UCCtruths has received a copy of a complaint sent to the IRS regarding Sen. Barak Obama's speech at the UCC's General Synod in June in Hartford, Connecticut. The complaint, dated August 2nd, does not ask for any specific remedy, but does ask for an investigation alleging that the UCC violated "federal tax law banning political campaign intervention". Many of the citations in the letter include links to the UCC.org web site but there is a reference to one post from UCCtruths.com. The allegations in the letter include:
The United Church of Christ violated every single point outlined in the IRS guidelines. Specifically:

According to the IRS guidelines, church or religious organization must ensure that:
The individual speaks only in a non-candidate capacity
o While much of Sen. Obama’s speech was a reflection of his personal faith and the relationship of his beliefs to public life, it was clearly a campaign speech with direct references to campaign pledges (Sen. Obama: "I have made a solemn pledge that I will sign a universal health care bill into law by the end of my first term as president that will cover every American and cut the cost of a typical family's premiums by up to $2500 a year.” Transcript available on the United Church of Christ’s own web site: http://www.ucc.org/news/significantspeeches/ a-politics-of-conscience.html).

o Numerous local and national news outlets characterized the event in terms of a political campaign:

“At times it certainly had the feel of a political convention” WTNH, http://www.wtnh.com/Global/story.asp? S=6700799&nav=menu29_2

“With fiery speeches on faith and politics, the United Church of Christ's biennial General Synod seemed at times as much a revival or political rally as a mainline church meeting.”
The Christian Century Magazine, http://www.christiancentury.org/article.lasso?id=3518
• Neither the individual nor any representative of the church makes any mention of his or her candidacy or the election
o Sen. Obama made a direct reference to his candidacy in the fourth sentence of his speech (Sen. Obama: “It's been several months now since I announced I was running for president.” Transcript available on the United Church of Christ’s own web site: http://www.ucc.org/news/significant-speeches/ a-politics-ofconscience.html).

o A June 21, 2007 Religion News Service article in advance of the speech was prominently posted on the United Church of Christ web site with the headline “Obama's Synod speech will be 'first major address on faith and politics as presidential candidate'” http://www.ucc.org/news/aide-obamas-synodspeech.html
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.
o An April 24, 2007 News Release announcing Sen. Obama’s speech on the UCC web site states “Obama, a Democratic candidate for President, has spoken often about his profession of faith, his membership in the socially progressive UCC and the need for Democrats to take seriously the concerns of religious Americans”. http://www.ucc.org/news/barack-obama-joins.html

o Campaign volunteers for Sen. Obama set up tables and greeted visitors at the entrances of the Hartford Civic Center. According to the official “Connecticut for Obama ’08” blog, approximately 40 volunteers staffed the campaign tables in three-hour shifts from 8AM to 6PM on the day of Sen. Obama’s speech. The blog further stated “As volunteers staffing tables, our goal was to gather as many new supporters as possible.”Although this particular blog entry was removed after another web site drew attention to the violation, a copy of the text is located at http://ucctruths.blogspot.com/2007/06/ connecticut-volunteers-blog-aboutobama.html and pictures of the tables are included with this letter.
The copy of the letter that was sent to UCCtruths was sent anonymously and the author's name and contact information were redacted. Photos of campaign booths outside the Hartford Civic Center from before, during and after Obama's were included with the letter, some of which came from UCCtruths.com.

Rev. Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (and an ordained UCC minister) last month declined to file a complaint with the IRS. According to Rev. Lynn's Blog:
Obama’s appearance at the UCC gathering does not seem to warrant IRS action. Church leaders, including the president, reiterated that the invitation was issued well before Obama launched his presidential campaign and that he was invited to speak on a specific topic of interest, not to trumpet his candidacy.
Lynn is flat out wrong and his bias is apparent in his response. The IRS guidelines do not make any reference whatsoever to the date that a candidate is invited to speak. In fact, as UCCtruths pointed out in June (and as thoroughly enumerated in the complaint to the IRS), the United Church of Christ violated each of the three provisions in the IRS guidelines on "Speaking as a Non-Candidate":
  • The individual speaks only in a non-candidate capacity,
  • Neither the individual nor any representative of the organization makes any mention of his or her candidacy or the election, and
  • No campaign activity occurs in connection with the candidate’s attendance.
Although I believe UCC leaders knowingly violated the IRS guidelines, I don't think we should have our tax exempt status revoked. However, as we head into the election season, I believe the IRS should send a stern warning to our leaders about political campaign intervention.
posted by UCCtruths, Monday, August 27, 2007

1 Comments:

"The copy of the letter that was sent to UCCtruths was sent anonymously and the author's name and contact information were redacted."

My, how brave. Guess it's easier to lob tomatoes from a safe distance than make any direct accusations. At least Hutchins has the courage to put his name on what he's doing.
commented by Blogger Tom, 3:15 PM  

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