IRS Investigates Obama’s Church

At the Washington Post‘s “On Faith” site, The Rev. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite writes,

The Internal Revenue Service has notified the United Church of Christ that the IRS has opened an investigation into Senator Barack Obama’s address at the UCC’s 2007 General Synod. The IRS is accusing the UCC of engaging in “political activities.”

I believe the “political activities” are on the other foot. The UCC General Synod was in June of 2007, celebrating that denomination’s 50th Anniversary. It is only now fully nine months later, when Senator Obama has become the front-runner in the race for President, that this investigation is launched. Further, the IRS did not contact the UCC or communicate with them while coming to this decision.

I was present when Senator Obama gave this speech at General Synod (along with 10,000 of my closest church friends and neighbors). There were no campaign buttons, signs, electioneering or other such politically related activities. Indeed, the UCC leadership took care to instruct the assembled about the fact that this was a faith event and we were welcoming a member of our church to talk to us about his personal faith in the public square.

John Wilson writes at Huffington Post:

The national United Church of Christ is under attack from the IRS, the AP reports, because the church invited one of its members, Barack Obama, to speak at the church’s national conference last summer. The invitation came before Obama had decided to run for president. What’s at stake here is not just religious freedom, but the freedom of speech of all nonprofit groups. The danger is that when nonprofit groups are silenced, corporate America will be able to dominate even more thoroughly the public debate.

The IRS letter to the United Church of Christ is particularly disturbing, threatening to revoke the church’s tax-exempt status. The sole basis for the letter is that Obama gave a June 23, 2007 speech to the church’s members (he was invited before he decided to run for president), and Obama campaign staffers had tables outside the building promoting him. Inside the building, the church actually banned all Obama signs and literature, and announced that it was not a campaign speech.

If this rule is taken literally, it might ban all politicians from speaking at any nonprofit location.

He wasn’t even officially running for President yet. Please. This is nothing but political harassment.

12 thoughts on “IRS Investigates Obama’s Church

  1. I was in a waiting room where two older women of color sat talking.I tried not to listen, but when I realized they were talking politics I couldn’t help but listen in.These women, who I am guessing were both close to 80, spoke in hushed tones with great fear in their voice.
    Both thought Obama would be a great leader.BOTH feared for his life.One said to the other”You know they will kill him if he gets elected to office” . The other lowered her glance and agreed.Both spoke of the way Clinton was treated and investigated .Both agreed Obama would spend more time warding off attacks than being president.Both were truely afraid for Obama.After listening to them I was afraid for America and I had hope they were wrong,over-reacting and paranoid, but in my heart I knew they were right to be afraid.
    Already it starts.How sad that the best of America(a man like Obama who wants to serve his country in the most noble of ways) brings to the surface the worst of this country(the hate filled white sheet wannabe’s).

  2. justme, that is a heartbreaking story. I also understand why the two women you heard should feel that way. If false words don’t kill Obama, some racist nutter somewhere may try bullets or bombs. Were this country truly the beacon of freedom that the righties fantasize it is, such a fearful conversation between two elderly ladies would be unimaginable.

    As for the IRS harassment, this isn’t the first time they’ve chosen to investigate a Democrat over higher-profile, more egregious violations by a Republican. I don’t recall any investigation whatever of Bill Frist’s wallow with the Righties for Jeebus a few years back. Or maybe that speech took place not in a church, but in a Hooters?

  3. The one I remember where the IRS investigated a liberal church was All Saints Church in Pasadena. See WaPo from 2005:

    But more recently they’re going after a Buena Park church for a Huckabee endorsement:,1,1061290.story

    My gut feeling is that they are going after libs more often than repugs, but that would probably be hard to prove.

  4. I agree there should be an investigation – into where the idea originated to audit the United Church of Christ. This did not ‘just happen’. Somebody asked for it originally, and their ass should be on the line for misuse of their authority.

    On a moderately unrelated topic – misuse of authority. It looks like the FBI & DOJ (at the bidding of Congress) are going to do an investigation into whether Roger Clemens lied about steroid use. Give me a break! Bush liked his ass off to launch the Iraq war, what’s the death toll now??? And no one in Congress even questions the deceit that launced that fiasco. But a baseball pitcher will get hard time in jail for lyin’ about steroids.

    If the terrorists get a nuclear bomb will they please start with DC?

  5. Any one else smell that fat f*cktard KKKarl rover? If not him than some one just like him. Using the power of this country’s judicial system for political retaliation is wrong on so many levels that it’s hard to grasp that we are even talking of it. Good lord, doesn’t any of these asshats believe in the constitution? Are we so far gone that no one cares if justice is subverted for little boots games? This is not the country that I served, twice. this is not the country that I want my kids to grow up into. This is not my country. Our “leaders” are criminals, liars, cheats, sneaky bastards, and whatever else I’ve left out. This makes me mad. Really mad. Is it time to start action against our own government? How else are we to garner our constitution? Vote? LOL.

  6. This is just the beginning. We can expect the GOP to try every trick in their playbook(which has Karl Rove and Lee Atwater’s fingerprints all over it) to try and stop the Obama tide. This is not near as ugly as it will get.

  7. DR: Wow, and I’m fresh out of leeks. Also fresh out of hats. Maybe if I wore a leek around my neck it would ward off English vampires.

    Anyway, Cymru am byth, y’all.

  8. Although I rarely attend services, I had the good fortune of being raised and confirmed as a member of the United Church of Christ (the “UCC”). Much to my delight, most fundamentalists think of members of the UCC as Tree-Hugging, Marxist-Lesbians, even if we happen to be male, heterosexual, and have neither read Marx nor hugged a tree. Through his work with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a UCC minister, Barry Lynn, has been fighting for years against the intolerance and basic stupidity of what is called the “Religious Right.”

    I was especially proud of the UCC when they invited SpongeBob Squarepants to visit the UCC’s offices after SpongeBob had been so viciously “outed” as a homosexual sponge by Dobson or one of those other fundamentalist wingnuts.

    In light of the leading role the UCC has assumed in fighting against the forces of wingnut stupidity, my guess is that this “investigation” was instigated by one of the many sleeper fundie cells Bush has installed in the Executive Branch. However, on a glass-half-full-note, I think the whole thing is going to backfire in favor of both Obama and the United Church of Christ. I can see both receiving a great deal of favorable publicity as a result of this “investigation.”

  9. The UCC link that noonan provides is interesting. It has its own links to the IRS’s letter (so we know the exact accusations), a video and a transcript of Obama’s speech. In other words, all the info anyone needs to recognize that the IRS is playing games.

    Their investigation will find nothing, but will have accomplished its true purpose: to link Obama’s name with violations of tax-exempt status. KKK-Karl, indeed.

    Note for March 1st: if fresh out of leeks, daffodils are an acceptable modern substitute!

  10. Freakin’ Daffodils???

    Who’s ever tasted Daffodil & Potato Soup?

    (And we won’t even contemplate “Cock-A-Daffodillie”)

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