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Every denomination needs one of these...

United Church of Christ being investigated by the IRS

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

According to UC News and multiple news services, the Internal Revenue Service is investigating the United Church of Christ "because reasonable belief exists that the United Church of Christ has engaged in political activities that could jeopardize its tax-exempt status." Specifically, the IRS is investigating Sen. Barack Obama's speech before the United Church of Christ General Synod last June in Hartford, Connecticut.

I blogged numerous times about the political activity that surrounded Obama's speech and received a copy of the complaint to the IRS last August. The letter, 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. From the complaint:

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 UnitedChurch 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”.

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-about-obama.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.

As I 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.
While it is doubtful that the UCC will face any serious penalties from the violations, I think the investigation validates concerns that the United Church of Christ national office went too far by promoting Obama's candidacy.
posted by UCCtruths, Wednesday, February 27, 2008


commented by Anonymous Drew, 7:33 AM  
From the transcript and the video, it is clear to me that the UCC did not hold a pro-Obama political rally, and Obama's speech was not a campaign speech. This ought to be plain to anybody who honestly engages the original speech.

There may well be a point at which one of Obama's vague and occasional political references crossed the legal line, but we're clearly dealing with inane technicalities rather than substance here. This "investigation" is a sad waste of taxpayer dollars.
commented by Blogger Tom, 8:31 AM  
I came across your website by reading the conversation going on at UCC.org re the IRS. I read your site, and learned more about the situation -- concerning the "complaint letter" from some anonymous person, for example. So far, so good. I then watched the "Greatest Obama Video Ever" and was disgusted. What is the point, other than to dismiss, demean, defame and defeat Obama's candidacy? Do you call this speaking "the truth" -- in love, for God's sake? Is misleading and lying images and soundbites part of your ministry? Because of that video, on your site, I have no respect for anything you have to say. Good Lord, it's time for honest, plain, clear communication about the issues before us -- not slick, false, anonymous, degrading video fun! - Ralph DiBiasio-Snyder
commented by Blogger Ralph DBS, 12:15 PM  
The video is not an anti-Obama video... but if that is a convenient distraction from addressing the IRS complaint, have at it.
commented by Blogger UCCtruths, 1:25 PM  
people condemned him for posting it because it was probama and you condemn him for posting it because it's antibama.

give your mommma a comma and settle down about obama.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 2:40 PM  
Where is the complaint itself posted? Neither your August posts nor the current one contain a link to a pdf of the complaint. Could you please post it? Thanks.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 2:55 PM  
As their name would suggest, the IRS "guidelines" don't have the force of law. In fact, courts have repeatedly slapped down the IRS for treading too close to protected religious activity.

On its face, this appears to be a politically motivated investigation, and this Administration certainly hasn't earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to such matters.
commented by Blogger Aquaman, 3:33 PM  

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