United Church of Christ Invites Obama, Draws IRS Complaint

Looks like the United Church of Christ is in for a bunch of guys in dark suits going over their tax returns. A complaint has been filed with the IRS regarding Barack Obama's appearance at their General Synod on 23 June.

The complaint alleges the UCC "violated every single point outlined in the IRS guidelines," in sponsoring the Illinois Senator's appearance at the church's bi-annual national gathering, which this year was held in the Hartford Civic Center in the Connecticut capital. It charges:

* "The United Church of Christ selectively provided the convention facilities for Sen. Obama to speak in support of his campaign."

* "The United Church of Christ and Sen. Obama referenced his candidacy before and during the speech."

* "Clear and deliberate campaign activity occurred in connection with the [sic] Sen. Obama's attendance and speech."

Specifically the complaint references guidelines that an individual addressing the church does so "only in a non-candidate capacity," that the individual makes no "mention of his or her candidacy or the election," and that "no campaign activity occurs in connection with the candidate's attendance." The complaint also cites a guideline that prohibits a church from mentioning an individual's political candidacy or the upcoming election in "the communications announcing the candidate's attendance at the event." Both a video and a transcript of Obama's speech are available on the UCC website and apparently will be present throughout the election.

The complaint is replete with citations and links directly to both the IRS guidelines themselves as well as the transcript of Obama's speech as presented on the UCC website. Also linked are communications from the UCC in the run-up to the event that focus on Obama's role not as a Senator but in his capacity as a presidential candidate.

Included with the complaint are photographs of tables set up by campaign volunteers for Obama at the entrance to the Civic Center. The tables are decorated with Obama campaign signs and literature. To further back up the charge of an IRS violation, the complaint links to stories covering the General Synod that were aired by New Haven's news channel WTNH-TV and written in Christian Century magazine. The news stories described Obama's UCC-sponsored appearance as a "political convention" and "political rally."
What is especially interesting about the actions of the UCC is the strong odor of hypocrisy.
The irony is that IRS complaints of this nature have been lovingly crafted into a science by left-wing activist -- and UCC minister -- Barry Lynn, the head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Lynn, quite famously, has made much of his tangles with conservative Christians, filing numerous IRS complaints designed to effectively shut down conservative religious activists such as the late Jerry Falwell. The goal, and a very serious goal it is, is to remove the tax-exempt status that the IRS gives to churches.

With the news of the filing of this complaint, both Lynn's previous actions and his language are turning around to take a bite out of both Obama and the UCC, Lynn's own denomination. "Falwell is thumbing his nose at the IRS," Lynn said in September of 2004 as the Bush-Kerry race was heating up. Falwell, Lynn said, "must not be permitted to use a tax-exempt ministry to engage in partisan politics. The vast majority of America's institutions play by the rules. He should too." When charges arose that this time it was the liberal UCC and Obama which ran the risk of an IRS complaint, Lynn dismissed the possibility

Strikingly, the language in a Lynn complaint to the IRS against Falwell is close to that in the complaint filed against the UCC.

Lynn complaint language: "I believe this is intervention in a political campaign on behalf of a candidate in clear violation of federal tax law. I urge you to take appropriate action to correct this abuse of law."

UCC complaint language: "The evidence that the United Church of Christ violated IRS guidelines is clear and plain....I urge you to take action promptly to address this issue."
The Apostle Paul tells both the Romans and Titus to remember that Christians are to be subject to the laws of the nation in which they live (Romans 13:1, Titus 3:1), and the Apostle Peter makes the same point in his first epistle (1 Peter 2:13-14).

Seems that the UCC has run afoul of both America's law and God's.