You house of worship types are probably used to hearing politically toned sermons coming from your clergy(wo)man but a nonprofit holy house flat out telling its congregation, “Get out there and vote for [candidate soon-to-be caught up in a lurid sex scandal]!” would be venturing into some tricky waters.
Well, the Americans United for Separation of Church and State seems to have caught wind of a church who ventured. The AU claims that the Oasis Church in Los Angeles was openly supporting its Director of Social Justice’s, Alex Jones-Moreno run for reelection to the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood City Council on its website and on Twitter:
Americans United was not amused by this, sending a complaint to the IRS and putting out a press release:
“Oasis Church’s appeals might have been innovative, but they still violate the law,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Federal law bars churches and other tax-exempt non-profits from electioneering. The IRS should crack down on these troubling tweets.”
We called the IRS in Los Angeles, who was not aware of the story and we were told the usual yarn of “we can’t comment on individual tax cases,” which we were expecting but the IRS PR folks are always nice people and we like a pleasant voice every now and again.
Anyhoo, we did stumble across the IRS Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations, that says the following on page 5 (our bolding):
Churches and religious organizations, like many other charitable organizations, qualify for exemption from federal income tax under IRC section 501(c)(3) and are generally eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. To qualify for tax-exempt status, such an organization must meet the following requirements (covered in greater detail throughout this publication):
• the organization must be organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific, or other
• net earnings may not inure to the benefit of any private individual or shareholder,
• no substantial part of its activity may be attempting to influence legislation,
• the organization may not intervene in political campaigns, and
• the organization’s purposes and activities may not
be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.
Now whether Tweeting = “intervene” we’re not sure but Americans United certainly seems to think so. We’d invite any tax-exempt experts to weigh in.
A message left at Mr Jones-Moreno’s Oasis office was not immediately returned.
Americans United Asks IRS to Investigate Los Angeles Church That ‘Tweeted’ Candidate to Victory [AU]