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IRS Warning on Churches in Politics

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Monday, August 14, 2000
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WASHINGTON (AP, JULY 13) -- An election-year advisory from the Internal Revenue Service warns tax-exempt churches and other charities that tax policy forbids campaign activity.

The IRS said groups that are exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code are "prohibited from participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office."

Banned activities include endorsements, donations, fund-raising and even programs that are "nonpartisan and in the public interest" but help or hurt a candidate, the IRS stated. Educational forums that do not take sides are allowed.

Violators could be taxed on non-exempt activity or lose tax exemption entirely.

The IRS issued similar warnings during the 1992 and 1996 campaigns.

In May, a federal appeals court ruled that the IRS was justified in removing tax exemption from the church at Pierce Creek in Binghamton, N.Y., for running 1992 campaign ads attacking Bill Clinton.

[End article]

The Transcendental Meditation movement claims tax-exempt status for the Maharishi Foundation, Maharishi University of Management, and numerous other front groups in the U.S. and abroad. Yet Transcendental Meditation centers regularly hold Natural Law Party rallies, release their mailing and phone lists to Natural Law Party candidates, and may actually house local Natural Law Party headquarters within their buildings -- perhaps breaking U.S. law.

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