Atheists go to court, demand restrictions against churches

Posted by News Express | 18 November 2012 | 3,423 times

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A group of atheists and agnostics in the United States has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to compel the country’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to withdraw tax exemptions from churches and other religious organisations which get involved in political campaigns.

The suit “filed by a Wisconsin-based group representing atheists and agnostics argues that the Internal Revenue Service is violating the U.S. Constitution by allowing tax-exempt churches and religious organisations to get involved in political campaigns,” says a report in the Huffington Post.

“The Freedom from Religion Foundation argues that churches and other religious organisations have become increasingly more involved in political campaigns, ‘blatantly and deliberately flaunting the electioneering restrictions’,” the report adds.

Filed on Wednesday, Nov. 14, in U.S. District Court in Madison, the suit “argues that the IRS is not enforcing the federal tax code, which prohibits tax-exempt religious organisations from electioneering. Not enforcing it is a violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment and a violation of equal protection rights because the same preferential treatment is not provided to other tax-exempt organisations such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the lawsuit contends,” according to Huffington Post.

The lawsuit was filed against IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman and aims to get the court to order Shulman to initiate enforcement of the electioneering restrictions against churches and religious organisations.

The suit further demands the IRS to initiate legal action against any churches or religious organisations that are believed to be violating the restrictions.

The suit argues that churches and religious organisations in the United States obtain a significant benefit from their tax-exempt status while also being able to engage in electioneering that other similar tax-exempt organisations do not.

It cites full-page advertisements run in The New York Times and other newspapers by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association that featured a photo of renowned evangelist Billy Graham urging Americans to vote along biblical principles during the November 6 U.S. presidential ballot. Graham had in October met with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and pledged to do all he could to help him win the election.

The lawsuit also refers to an order from Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, Ill., that all the priests in his diocese should read a statement urging Catholics to vote in the election and stating that “Catholic politicians, bureaucrats, and their electoral supporters who callously enable the destruction of innocent human life in the womb also thereby reject Jesus as their Lord.”

News Express reports that the Catholic campaign was aimed against President Barack Obama, who does not only endorse abortion but also gay marriage. However, the support by the religious groups failed to work in favour of Romney, who was trounced by Democrat Obama to win a fresh four-year mandate.

Photo shows renowned evangelist Billy Graham, who is cited in the suit.

Source: News Express

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