Curb a Texas Catholic bishop’s politicking, FFRF says to IRS

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A Texas Catholic bishop’s electioneering needs to be halted, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is insisting to the IRS.

Bishop J. Strickland, speaking in an official capacity on behalf of the Catholic Diocese of Tyler, Texas, has again made endorsements of the Republican Party and its politicians on Twitter. (FFRF previously reported the bishop engaging in electioneering on Twitter in 2020.)

On Oct. 25, two weeks before the midterm elections, Strickland retweeted Joe Biden advocating for the election of Democratic members of Congress and the codification of Roe v. Wade, commenting, “We must stop this evil agenda.” Then on Nov. 12, Strickland posted a chart comparing the Republican and Democratic platforms worded in such a way as to make it clear that he was endorsing the Republican Party and its politicians. For example, the chart says that the Democrats want to “gut religious liberty” and support a “coercive” contraception mandate, while Republicans, by contrast, oppose “reshap[ing] our schools — and our entire society — to fit the mold of an ideology alien to America’s history and traditions.” This biased language is not a neutral comparison of party platforms and makes very clear which side is preferred.

These tweets came from an official Twitter account for the bishop, indicated by the generic handle @Bishopoftyler. Nothing about the @Bishopoftyler handle itself indicates it is a personal account. The profile photo shows the bishop in official dress; the header photo is a photo of a church altar. And the endorsement of one political party over another 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,” FFRF emphasizes.

“The Diocese of Tyler appears to have again inappropriately used its religious organization and 501(c)(3) status to intervene in political campaigning,” FFRF Staff Attorney Madeline Ziegler writes to the IRS. “It violated IRS regulations by broadcasting a clear preference for one political party and its candidates over another. Under IRS regulations, this amounts to endorsing candidates for political office.”

FFRF is requesting the IRS to commence an immediate investigation of the Tyler Diocese and take appropriate action to remedy any violations of 501(c)(3) regulations.

“Churches have responsibilities as nonprofits,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, “and they and their official representatives can’t be allowed to engage in blatant electioneering that brazenly flout the rules.”

FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with almost 40,000 members and several chapters across the country, including 1,600 members and a chapter in Texas. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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