In church electioneering lawsuit

FFRF opposes anti-abortion church’s intervention

An obscure Wisconsin Anglican church with a fanatical anti-abortion bent, represented by a Catholic legal firm, has moved to intervene as a party in the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s federal church electioneering lawsuit.

FFRF naturally will oppose the intervention, requested more than a year after FFRF filed suit to enforce Internal Revenue Service policies against illegal church electioneering. No 501(c)(3) organizations are allowed to retain tax exemption if they engage in partisan politicking. FFRF obeys the law, but points out the IRS has turned a blind eye to widespread flouting of the regulations by churches.

Fr. Patrick Malone, vicar of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Milwaukee, participated in the “Pulpit Initiative” this year, publicly joining more than 1,200 churches that made overt endorsements from the pulpit.

Malone submitted an affidavit claiming he is called to “preach to Holy Cross Anglican Church about candidates that, as a matter of faith and practice, they should not vote for. I have done so in the past, as recently as the November 2013 elections, and I plan to do so again in the future.”

Malone openly admits in the affidavit that he preaches on the “sanctity of life," adding, "I have in the past, and will in the future, declare to my congregation that Elective Abortion is a fundamental evil, and that voting for a candidate that supports such laws is to be a supporter and accomplice to this grave sin.”

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor responded: “Nobody’s above the law, not even churches on a crusade. It’s so simple: If churches want to politick, they’re free to do so, and to freely give up their tax exemption. Fair’s fair.”

Gaylor said if churches engaging in politicking are permitted to retain tax exemption, the consequences “will make Citizens United look like child’s play.” She pointed out that congregations would become political wards and churches would money launder political donations, with virtually no public accountability or ability to trace donors.

“Tax exemption is a privilege, not a right,” added FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “It’s the bargain that we strike with the government and taxpayers in order to earn the tax break — that we will not betray this fundamental principle.”

The lawsuit, FFRF v. Schulman (12-cv-818), was filed on FFRF’s behalf by attorney Richard L. Bolton. U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Adelman, for the Western District of Wisconsin, has ruled that FFRF has standing to pursue the case.

Read FFRF’s legal complaint.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

 

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FFRF is a member of Atheist Alliance International.