Thursday, October 09, 2008

The dirty hands of the bishop of Fresno

I'm not a tax attorney, but I do know that the IRS has been investigating the prohibited political activities of not-for-profits.

I certainly hope the IRS will take a look at the home page of the website of the diocese of Fresno that contains a boldfaced directive to vote "yes" on Prop 8.

The IRS prohibits organizations of this type from donating funds to a particular candidate for public office, or, inviting a candidate to speak, but I am not sure about whether or not this "Yes on Prop 8" political directive violates IRS laws. If so, let the Roman Catholic diocese of Fresno start paying taxes. Why raise taxes on the rest of us when church organizations are not playing by the rules?

(In the nearby diocese of Oakland, Bishop Vigneron takes a more subtle approach, talking about the god-willed status of marriage as exclusively a man/woman combo, while not specifically telling his flock how to vote. This is because Allen Vigneron was trained in Rome. He is not holier than the bishop of Fresno, but he is slicker.)

Also, if you go to the home page of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, you will find (as one of a handful of revolving banners) a link to this group. Go there, and you will be asked to donate to "restore marriage and protect children" by voting "yes on Prop 8". Are you as disgusted by this as I am?

Incidentally, these bishops feel they are justified in this political intervention because of a directive from United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. It is called "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship". In this pastoral letter, the Bishop of Fresno summarizes his interpretation of this directive and offers it as justification for his political intervention. The amusing (and disgusting) aspect of his letter is the way he says "Vote your conscience" but be sure your conscience is formed correctly so that you will vote "Yes on Prop 8". Like so many bishops and priests, this one must be convinced that his followers are stupid and that they do not see the torturous gyrations and word games he is spinning out in the name of Jesus.


Paris said...

My understanding is that a healthy dose of cynicism is necessary for promotion up the hierarchy, so not really surprised.

With the exception of my godmother, who served for a decade on her order's governing board, all the truely inspiring religious I've encountered in the church had jurisdictions the size of postage stamps.

Father Tony of the Farmboyz said...

Dear Paris,
Are you saying that the size of the bishopric does matter?

Birdie said...

It is a difficult struggle between servant leadership and the desire to increase one's impact. It is easy to see how many succumb to the lure of power and leave servanthood behind. Once having tasted the drug of influence, many are addicted. As people vie for our support, financial, political or otherwise, it behooves us to ask every time: "Who benefits?"

Mark H said...

Glad to learn the Catholics are doing this too...As an Ex-Mormon I'm appalled at the Mormon's flagrant $8 million going to fight Prop 8 in both CA & AZ. They're asking all CA residents encased at BYU to join phone banks calling CA residents FROM UTAH asking to vote for it.

The Fresno Priest. That's disgusting.

cb said...

I am a firm believer in separation of church and state-- especially with regard to political preaching.

But if the church wants to go against that? Fine. I say tax them out the wazoo.

ReyD said...

Unfortunately I don't think it is illegal. The IRS differentiates between Political and Legislative activities. 501(c)(3) organizations can participate in legislative activities as long as they don't spend a substantial part of its activities/funds in attempting to influence legislation. But they are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in political campaigns. Prop 8 is considered a legislative activity, I assume.

Paris said...

Depends on what one plans on doing with it, I suppose!