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UCCtruths

Every denomination needs one of these...

American Spectator Magazine investigates IRS complaint against the United Church of Christ

Friday, September 07, 2007

Conservative magazine The American Spectator has picked up the story UCCtruths first reported last month about the complaint filed with the IRS alleging that the United Church of Christ violated numerous IRS regulations barring non-profit religious entities from political campaign intervention. From Jeffrey Lord's article in The American Spectator:
Specifically the complaint references guidelines that an individual addressing the church does so "only in a non-candidate capacity," that the individual makes no "mention of his or her candidacy or the election," and that "no campaign activity occurs in connection with the candidate's attendance." The complaint also cites a guideline that prohibits a church from mentioning an individual's political candidacy or the upcoming election in "the communications announcing the candidate's attendance at the event." Both a video and a transcript of Obama's speech are available on the UCC website and apparently will be present throughout the election.

The complaint is replete with citations and links directly to both the IRS guidelines themselves as well as the transcript of Obama's speech as presented on the UCC website. Also linked are communications from the UCC in the run-up to the event that focus on Obama's role not as a Senator but in his capacity as a presidential candidate.

Included with the complaint are photographs of tables set up by campaign volunteers for Obama at the entrance to the Civic Center. The tables are decorated with Obama campaign signs and literature. To further back up the charge of an IRS violation, the complaint links to stories covering the General Synod that were aired by New Haven's news channel WTNH-TV and written in Christian Century magazine. The news stories described Obama's UCC-sponsored appearance as a "political convention" and "political rally."
The American Spectator article goes on to point out the hypocrisy of Barry Lynn and American's United for the Separation of Church and State:
IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING OBAMA'S appearance, Lynn was quick to issue a pass for his own church, saying neither Obama nor the UCC had "run afoul of federal tax law." Obviously, the filing of an official complaint signals there is a different opinion about the issue, and unfortunately for UCC members it is their offering dollars that must now be used to fight the complaint. To make matters more interesting, Lynn has issued a public defense of the liberal Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, who drew attention when he publicly endorsed Obama. Robinson, Lynn stressed of the Bishop who ignited controversy by becoming the first openly gay bishop in that denomination's history, was doing so as an individual. He approvingly quotes Robinson as saying: "I will not be speaking about the campaign from the pulpit or at any church function. That is completely inappropriate."

But allow Obama to speak "at any church function" and "from the pulpit" is precisely what UCC President John Thomas did. By refusing either to cancel Obama's appearance as a candidate at the General Synod ("any church function") or to insist that Obama refrain from discussing his campaign, Thomas did what Lynn praises Robinson for not doing. As the complaint against the UCC also specifically says, the UCC-owned website, clearly an Internet pulpit that is every bit as much church property as a physical pulpit, deliberately headlined a story from the Religion News Service trumpeting Obama's speech to the UCC as Obama's "first major address on faith and politics as presidential candidate." There too, Lynn praised Robinson for not doing exactly this kind of thing.
Interestingly, the violations really aren't limited to just Obama's speech - the UCC's web site continues to promote and distribute the DVD of Sen. Barak Obama's speech and still promotes his Presidential candidacy in news archives.

Barry Lynn's denial of any IRS violation is also loaded with hypocrisy. Instead of addressing the actual IRS guidelines and the specific actions that constitute a violation, Lynn made up new rules that aren't mentioned in any IRS guidelines. According to Lynn, "the UCC invitation had been made well before the senator declared his candidacy". Contrary to Lynn's statement, the IRS guidelines say nothing about the time line of an invitation for a candidate to speak... but they specifically outline that a tax exempt religious organization is responsible to make sure that:
  • 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.
Lynn does say, however, that "Obama mentioned his presidential run. He shouldn’t have done so, and I am disappointed that he made the reference."

Lynn doesn't make any reference to the UCC's promotion of Obama's candidacy before during and after the speech or the 8 campaign tables and 40 campaign volunteers stationed at the entrance of the Civic Center. I'm sure he's "disappointed" at that as well... just not enough to honor his own principles on the separation of church and state when it comes to his own church.
posted by UCCtruths, Friday, September 07, 2007

5 Comments:

Barry Lynn is such a hypocrite! Thank goodness someone is actually exposing it.
commented by Anonymous Chris, 10:25 AM  
Typical UCC behavior. Just as it is in my (former, we left the UCC congragation and joined a new denomination) church. Rules of law and common business and political ethics are ignored.
commented by Anonymous Alex C, 8:24 PM  
Pure arrogance on the side of Americans United and the United Church of Christ.
commented by Anonymous David Berndsen, 4:35 PM  
I'd like to understand more about Lynn's own claims of being independent. I looked at his web site as objectively as possible and I don't see it. Someone who agrees with Lynn help me out here.
commented by Anonymous Deena G., 11:12 AM  
Found the American Spectator article with the link to your website from stoptheaclu.com. Didn't have a clue you existed. I knew about Biblical Witness but not UCC Truths. What a terrific discovery.

We lived first hand the Obama/UCC intertwinement. I don't know what it's like at the conference level but I do know what it's like at the local church level.

My husband is a non-denominational pastor and just resigned from a UCC church (he still pastors at a small non-denominational church that left the UCC. That's another story for another time.). We regularly got emails from the conference giving us the Obama updates. We got emails from the campaign. Someone from the church hierarchy had to give them my husband's email address. We got a call from the local Obama rep telling us they had materials for us to talk about at the Sunday service. I told him we try not to mix politics with church. The rep said "You know that Obama is UCC?" I said yes I was aware of that. He then said "This material is approved and sanctioned by the conference." This is when I decided I wasn't going to argue. I told him I would take his name and number and if my husband was interested in pursuing it further he would call him back.

My husband and I are not UCC. My husband took the position in the UCC church because he knows some of the people there and they are conservative and don't buy the UCC "open and affirming" rainbow left-wing, non-biblical crap. He thought he could stick to the Bible. But he learned differently and left. Based on my experience what the American Spectator wrote about is true.

You are doing wonderful work. I am so happy you are here.
commented by Anonymous Mia J., 5:55 PM  

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