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Catholic Answers vs. the IRS

You can about it here. Here's an excerpt:

The apologetics organization Catholic Answers has filed suit against the Internal Revenue Service claiming the federal tax collection agency has “intimidated” churches and non-profit groups into silence on politically controversial moral issues.

In an announcement posted at the organization’s web site, Catholic Answers president Karl Keating explained that the IRS fined the group for a 2004 e-letter it wrote saying that Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry should not be allowed to receive Holy Communion.

Keating charged that Francis Kissling, then-leader of the pro-abortion front group “Catholics for a Free Choice,” had instigated the IRS action with a complaint.

You can read the whole thing here.

Comments (5)

It will be nice for fund raising, which they need right now, hence the filing this year rather than in the aftermath of 2004. They win just for filing. If they actually win the action, they enjoy more freedom. If they lose, they get to claim martyrdom and still get a hefty haul for contributors, not that I'm cynical or anything.

In other words, because they may be said in some indirect way to benefit from the filing itself, their motives must certainly be crass?

I gave them $100.

Remember reading Jeremiah Wright's Church (among hundreds of others) will never be investigated for even going so far as explicit candidate endorsement.

Badger said "hence the filing this year rather than in the aftermath of 2004"

Not sure what you mean, but apparently CA didn't wait to file, much less did they wait for fundraising purposes. The IRS took until May 2008 to assess its penalties, and then again until March of this year to finalize exactly how it was going to handle the dispute. So they filed rather promptly.

I am getting these facts solely from reading the complaint, which is available here:

It contains the e-letters in question and the IRS's determinations in relation to them. Notably in my view, the e letters occurred 6 months before the Presidential election.

I have been watching the IRS on this for years. They have been trying to thread a needle with a rope, and it isn't working. The guidance from the statutes and from the courts is so inextricably convoluted that there is little doubt that attempts to enforce the law are likely to run into problems.

In this case, the first letter clearly has nothing whatever to do with voting, and simply should never have been included in any case against Keating.

The second e-letter is quite a bit closer to the kind of action the courts have indicated violates the law:
I noted that “abortion is such a heinous
sin that people advocating it should forfeit our votes. If a candidate is wrong on such a basic issue, what trust can be put in his judgment when it comes to a lesser matter, such as what tariff rate, if any, should be applied to sugar? We would not reward a racist with our vote, so why should we reward someone who is wrong on
abortion or the other non-negotiables?”

Here is talking about votes, and not giving votes to candidates. Kerry was a candidate at the time. It is not necessary, under current case law, to actually refer to a person's candidate status to run afoul of the law. So the fact that the letter does not mention his candidate status does not, by itself, clear Keating from a violation.

In my opinion the law, and the court decisions, are somewhat ambiguous. It is clear that saying "Don't vote for Kerry" violates the law, it is less clear that saying "You shouldn't vote for people who do X" and then "Kerry does X" is a violation. Primarily because saying "you shouldn't vote for" is at first glance a moral judgment, not a direct, unequivocal call for a political act. The courts have been somewhat squeamish about slashing at comments that are short of a advocacy for specific political action.

Obviously, there is a thin, sometimes undistiguishable, line between moral judgment and advocacy, because when you get right down to it, the first principle of morality is a command: do good and avoid evil - i.e. advocacy for kinds of action. A judgment about morality harbors within it an implicit directive about what kind of action one is to engage in.

The filing is quite correct that the ruling from the IRS is rooted in a law (and case law) that are ambiguous and vague, and should be struck down. But they will not win with that tack. That's my prediction. The lower courts take their direction from the Supreme Court. And the liberals on the Supreme Court, the ones who normally would be hell-bent on protecting free speech, aren't really interested in protecting free speech in this arena. So they won't take any notice.

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