Court dismisses Catholic group’s ‘notorious sinner’ case

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Karl_Keating

Karl Keating

A Catholic group’s lawsuit over a tax levied after it entered electoral politics and labeled U.S. Sen. John Kerry a “notorious sinner” has reached an end.

The Supreme Court decided on Jan. 23 not to hear the complaint from Catholic Answers. A federal judge in San Diego already had dismissed the case, noting that Catholic Answers had received a refund on the tax.

The dispute dates back to 2004, when Kerry, a Democrat, was running for president.

Catholic Answers founder Karl Keating posted an online letter that year saying Kerry is “nominally Catholic, and is vociferously pro-abortion.” The letter also stated that Kerry “is precisely the kind of politician who should be denied Communion at Catholic parishes because his strong endorsement of abortion qualifies him as a 'notorious sinner.'"

In 2005, the IRS determined that the group had engaged in acts of "political intervention," which are prohibited for tax-exempt organizations, and ordered Catholic Answers to pay an excise tax of $831.41, as well as interest.

The group challenged the assessment and eventually the IRS refunded the money.

But Catholic Answers also went to court, alleging that the IRS’s collection of the tax had a chilling effect on free speech because of a fear of future taxation.

A federal district judge found the argument moot since the IRS gave back the money.

The 9th Circuit affirmed the judge’s ruling dismissing the case and, this week, the Supreme Court said it would not hear an appeal.