Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington wants the federal Internal Revenue Service to investigate the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for allegedly engaging in prohibited political activity in violation of its protected tax status.
The complaint filed recently notes press reports indicating a number of bishops are using their positions to advocate against the re-election of President Barack Obama and sermons this weekend likely will involve other political activity.
CREW says that in Illinois, Bishop Daniel Jenky, who has compared Obama to Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler, is requiring priests in his diocese to read a statement accusing the Obama administration of an "assault upon our religious freedom simply without precedent in the American political and legal system." Jenky says that Catholic voters who fail to heed his warning have no hope of salvation.
Said CREW executive director Melanie Sloan in a news release, "This weekend, the Catholic bishops plan to use every tool in their arsenal, including warning parishioners that they may go to hell, to promote the candidacy of Gov. Mitt Romney. While the bishops are free to hold their own opinions, tax law is clear that this sort of political activity is prohibited."
The group, in its complaint, also raised concerns about the political activity of Nicholas Di Marzio in New York, David Ricken in Wisconsin, Edward J. Burns in Alaska and Paul Loverde in Virginia.
CREW said they also have warned of the evils of the Obama administration, followed by an exhortation for Catholics to vote.
To qualify for tax exemption under IRC 501(c)(3), an organization must not participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. The publication or distribution of written or printed statements on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate is also prohibited. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as a 501(c)(3) group, and, according to CREW, "is clearly prohibited from opposing a candidate as it is clearly doing with its presidential election."
Sloan continued, "In completely unqualified terms, the IRS should immediately tell the Conference of Catholic Bishops that the conduct of its members is beyond the pale. If the Catholic bishops would like to continue receiving the tremendous tax benefits on which they rely, they should follow U.S. law and stay out of American politics."
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