Internal Revenue Service issues warning against churches in politics

Posted: Friday, July 14, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An election-year advisory from the Internal Revenue Service warns tax-exempt churches and other charities that tax policy forbids campaign activity.

The IRS said groups that are exempt under section 50l(c)(3) of the tax code are ''prohibited from participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office.''

Banned activities include endorsements, donations, fund-raising and even programs that are ''nonpartisan and in the public interest'' but help or hurt a candidate, the IRS stated. Educational forums that do not take sides are allowed.

Violators could be taxed on non-exempt activity or lose tax exemption entirely.

The IRS issued similar warnings during the 1992 and 1996 campaigns.

In May, a federal appeals court ruled that the IRS was justified in removing tax exemption from the Church at Pierce Creek in Binghamton, N.Y., for running 1992 campaign ads attacking Bill Clinton.

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