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Churches publicly challenge the White House’s refugee policy.

Churches publicly challenge the White House’s refugee policy.

The fight against President Trump’s executive orders to turn away refugees, deport undocumented immigrants and build a wall along the Mexican border is about to escalate in many American churches.

A campaign is being organized by the Orthodox and mainline Protestant churches affiliated with the National Council of Churches and Church World Service.

The New York Times:

A broad network of 37 Protestant and Orthodox Christian denominations will announce on Friday a campaign to mobilize its congregants — some 30 million Americans in all — to lobby the president and members of Congress to rescind the executive orders.

In a declaration hammered out over the last month, church leaders call the orders “unjust and immoral” and say they run counter to “the values we as people of faith hold dear: to welcome the stranger and assist those most in need.”

“It is imperative that we speak out against the notion that refugees are a threat to our safety,” the declaration adds. “They are not.”

The president’s Jan. 27 executive order, which he called necessary for national security, barred people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the country for 90 days, stopped refugee admissions for 120 days and banned refugees from Syria indefinitely. The White House is expected to issue a revised order very soon.


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Jay Croft

“The Diocese of the Episcopal Church?” Which one? We have about a hundred dioceses, and not all of them are in the continental United States.

Bill Louis

Jay, Why would I speak about any Diocese in Foreign nations. Maybe when the IRS has Juisdiction over them then they should be investigated too. You know what, you can keep this “Progressive Christianity” page. I’m weary from sparing with you.

Bill Louis

My issue is with the activities of the Diocese of the Episcopal church. How they spend our money and the level of political advocacy the church leadership is involved in. I was not calling out the Cafe but rather the issue in the Article. I realize the issue is with an executive order but the article calls for letters to members of congress. I believe that is advocating lobbying but I suppose that is for the IRS to determine.

Ann Fontaine

Here is what the IRS has to say:

Essentially churches can lobby on issues and advocate for various positions as long as they do not do partisan politics – as in supporting one candidate over another.

“The Internal Revenue Service today reminded section 501(c)(3) organizations, including charities and churches that federal law prohibits them from becoming directly or indirectly involved in campaigns of political candidates.

The prohibition against political campaign activity has been in effect for more than half a century and bars certain tax-exempt organizations from engaging on behalf of or in opposition to political candidates. However, these organizations can engage in advocating for or against issues and, to a limited extent, ballot initiatives or other legislative activities.”

Jay Croft

And protesting Trump’s “executive orders” apparently are not prohibited by IRS regulations.

Deo gratias.

The Rev. Darren Miner

The NCC is advocating for the change of a presidential executive order, not change in legislation. In any case, there is not a complete limit on 501(c)3 organizations advocating for or against legislation, as there is on advocating for or against candidates for office. So, at this point, the NCC is not incurring any legal risks.

Bill Louis

From IRS. Applies to Church Tax Exempt Status
Exemption Requirements – 501(c)(3) Organizations
To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.

So lobbying is a reason to lose a tax exempt status

Helen Kromm

There are two errors with what you are stating. The first is the “substantial” part of this. If this were legislation, the activity cited would probably pass the “substantial” test.

But none of that matters.

The complete citation which applies here is:

“Legislation includes action by Congress, any state legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, with respect to acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items (such as legislative confirmation of appointive office), or by the public in referendum, ballot initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure. It does not include actions by executive, judicial, or administrative bodies.”

501(c)(3) Organizations can take any action they want in this case because the IRS lobbying regulation does not apply to “actions by executive, judicial, or administrative bodies.”

Jay Croft

Nope. Freedom of speech, and all that.

Mr. Louis, are you a church member looking for your church to lose its tax-exempt status?

I am sure that the lawyers for these 37 denominations have carefully vetted whatever has been drafted, to avoid conflict with IRS regulations.

David Allen

The substantial issue is not with just this one article. I read nothing but political advocacy articles on this site so I think it approaches substancial [sic] if not already there.

Are you confusing the Episcopal Café with the Episcopal Church? They are two unrelated entities.

Mr Louis, are you questioning the Café’s 501(c)(3) status? I would guess that substantial advocacy would be in the eye of the beholder. I think that we report on a lot of stories from the Progressive Christianity aspect claimed in our Mission Statement (see bottom of page), but I don’t see the Café advocating. We report. And we publish very few Editorials on the part of the volunteer editing team.

Bill Louis

I think the article said, “Campaign to lobby.” You can argue free speech but it clearly says lobby. The substantial issue is not with just this one article. I read nothing but political advocacy articles on this site so I think it approaches substancial if not already there.

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