Investigate Denver Archdiocese’s electioneering, FFRF urges the IRS

Denver

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is calling the IRS’ attention to potentially illegal political campaigning on part of the Denver Archdiocese.

Several concerned citizens contacted FFRF to inform the state/church watchdog that on Aug. 27, the last night of the Republican National Convention, the Archbishop of Denver, Samuel J. Aquila, tweeted a meme of two nuns, one above the other, the top nun labeled “RNC” and the other “DNC.” The “DNC” nun was labeled a “Lobbyist” who does not follow the church’s teachings on abortion.

The only purpose behind labeling the nuns by political party is to make the image political, FFRF contends.

“Had the archbishop wished to express the same sentiment politically, he easily could have,” FFRF Staff Attorney Madeline Ziegler writes to IRS official Mary Epps. “He could, as other 501(c)(3) representatives do, focus on the issue, not the parties or candidates. Instead, he chose to wade into partisan politics on the final night of the Republican National Convention.”

FFRF emphasizes that these tweets came from an official Twitter account for the Archbishop, indicated by the generic handle @ArchbishopDen. Nothing about the @ArchbishopDen account indicates it is a personal account. The endorsement of one political party over another by a church representative is clear.

IRS regulations specify that 501(c)(3) organizations, which include churches and other religious organizations, are prohibited from “[participating in or intervening in] . . . any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.” The Archdiocese of Denver appears to have inappropriately used its religious organization and 501(c)(3) status to intervene in political campaigning IRS regulation by broadcasting a clear preference for one political party and its candidates over another.

This violation is compounded because it was committed not just with tithes and private donations, but also with taxpayer funds, FFRF points out. The Archdiocese of Denver received nearly $2 million in taxpayer dollars under the Paycheck Protection Program. This means that every U.S. taxpayer was not only forced to contribute to the spread of Roman Catholic dogma, but also the political proclivities of this particular archbishop.

FFRF is asking that the IRS commence an immediate investigation of the Archdiocese of Denver and take appropriate action to remedy any violations of 501(c)(3) regulations.

“The cavalier way that the Denver Archdiocese is engaging in political partisanship shows that it believes it is above the law,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The IRS should prove the Archdiocese wrong.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 32,000 members and several chapters across the country, including nearly 1,000 members in Colorado and two state chapters, including one in Denver. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

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.

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