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09/29/2008

The problem might be taxing, but equality is not the cause!

by Jeremy Hooper

Just a few minutes ago, we posted the first TV ad from California's anti-gay "Yes on Proposition 8" campaign. And while on first viewing we mainly just found the thing boring and ineffective, after viewing it again, we also find it totally flawed. In the following, we will give you but one reason why.

If you go twenty sends into the video, you will see this graphic...

Picture 11-91

...along with the claim that "churches could lose their tax exemption." Only problem for Prop. 8 proponents? The Gay & Lesbian Times article
shown in the graphic has NOTHING to do with how marriage equality itself will alter churches tax exempt status. Instead, the article is a warning to both churches and groups like Focus on the Family that their campaign activities could change their tax-less status. Here's a sample from the article:

EXCERPT: It’s no stretch to say that such religious leaders are transforming their churches into campaign headquarters, geared to pass Proposition 8 (and Proposition 4, which prohibits abortion for unemancipated minors until 48 hours after her physician notifies her parent, legal guardian or adult family member). Expect to see the flock manning phone banks, distributing door hangers, and conducting “precinct” walks in an effort to influence elections so that public policy embodies their religious beliefs.

None of us would have any problem with this, if it weren’t for the fact that these religious groups receive tax-exempt status. They don’t pay taxes on their vast incomes; they don’t pay property taxes on their billions in holdings. And contributors receive a tax deduction.

Many of us contribute funds to political groups that may be nonprofit, but they are not tax exempt because they are political. Unless we receive the same tax-exempt status, it’s not a fair playing field. And it’s reached a point where Attorney General Jerry Brown has more than probable cause to investigate whether such “religious” groups are defrauding the state by presenting a façade of worship when they are actually masquerading as political campaign headquarters.

Historically, under federal and state law, we view religious groups as deserving of tax-exempt status because they are not political and provide charity to so many. But when they cross the line and become political, they jeopardize the public subsidy they enjoy.

FULL ARTICLE: Anti-gay clergy should fear backlash [GLT]

A totally logical assessment of a real issue. And not only is the piece simply addressing a topic that is worthy of discussion REGARDLESS of the campaign issue at hand or the faith of the participants, but it is also nothing more than a commentary on the subject. It is an opinion piece from one side. The same sorts of opinion pieces that the anti-gay side writes on a daily basis. By what grounds does this one commentary on the topic of campaigning lead to the conclusion that marriage equality in and of itself could lead churches to lose their tax exemptions? IT DOESN'T! AT ALL!

But hey, they have shown a clipping and given some fearful narration -- in the disingenuous world of passing off bias as "pro-family" values, this presentation more than makes it over the low bar of expectation.

Anti-gay clergy should fear backlash [GL Times]

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Your thoughts

Considering how Republicans rightly condemned black churches for endorsing Gore, Kerry and Obama, this stunt here is just a tad hypocritical. Fact of the matter is that partisans on both sides are right and tax-exempt groups are not allowed to endorse candidates - nor should they be allowed to do so. I hope these folks get the penalty they have asked for. Being granted a tax-exemption is not a right but a privilege and to enjoy it they need to abide by the conditions which I fail to see as being a violation of the First Amendment. Now I do agree with giving churches a tax-exemption but I want them to butt out of such direct involvement in politics. There are plenty of other ways to get their message out without such a direct method.

Posted by: John | Sep 29, 2008 11:46:15 AM

Maybe it's just me, but I like the fact that they spend half of their ad time pointing out that the proponents of h8 are the religious. Because it underscores the fact that this isn't an intellectual discussion, but that it is in the realm of the farcically imaginary. I also think that it alienates the younger voters. It also would seem to indicate that they NEED to "preach to the choir" to shore up their support.

Granted, it is a lie that they are purporting, and that their lie is falsely suggesting that a vote for equality somehow ends religious tyranny -- would that it were just that easy! I'll also concede that their lie might garner some of the "undecided" (easily manipulable) votes. And, on top of that is the fact that this sort of baseless lie cheapens not only this debate, but also the entire political process.

But on balance, I think that their ad more detrimental than beneficial to their cause. But, that's just my opinion, and I could be wrong (to quote my hero Bill Maher).

Posted by: Dick Mills | Sep 29, 2008 12:21:00 PM

Right, John. And what's so annoying to me is that they use this scenario to make political hay, acting as if we gays WANT to deny churches and faith-based groups their tax exempt status. Once again they want us to look like "militants" out to rob them of something precious, when nothing could be further form the truth. In fact, the writer of the G&L Times piece, Robert Dekoven, makes a specific point to that fact.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Sep 29, 2008 12:22:35 PM

I'm a Mormon - who's voting no on proposition 8, and while I too am irritated by the half truths and the fear-mongering we've all been subjected to by my church leaders and the TV ads, they have every right to weigh in and have a voice in the debate.

What's truly frustrating is that they will ultimately buy this election by out fundraising, out phone calling and out media blitzing those of us opposed to marriage segregation. The Mormons represent about 2-3% of the voting public in California yet are responsible for nearly half of the 27 million raised so far. The media puts the percentage at about 35% but I've seen the list of donors on-line and know for fact that only about half are self identifying as Mormons. It's much higher.

They are being very careful about not turning their churches into campaign headquarters. Proposition 8 planning meetings are being held in private homes. campaign signs and literature is being distributed off the premises so far. They are in less danger of losing their tax exempt status and Jesse Jackson or MLK would have been.

Posted by: Mr. Mormon | Oct 13, 2008 6:29:14 PM

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