The federal tax exemption privilege accorded to churches, including the Catholic Church, began in 1894, but they had been unofficially tax-exempt since the country’s founding. All 50 US states and the District of Columbia exempt churches from paying income and property taxes. Donations to churches are tax-deductible.
But the tax exemption of churches is contingent on one thing.
A law in 1954, the Johnson Amendment, bans political campaigning by all tax-exempt groups, including churches. From IRS.gov:
The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.
Despite the IRS restriction on political campaigning, many churches regularly do so, such as black churches on behalf of Democratic candidates, and yet continue to enjoy tax exemptions. According to ProCon.org, since Congress passed the law banning churches from intervening in political campaigns, the IRS has been successful in using the law to revoke the tax-exempt status of only one church: the Church at Pierce Creek in Binghamton, NY, which had placed an advertisement in USA Today and the Washington Times rebuking Bill Clinton four days before the 1992 presidential election.
On January 20, 2017, the day of his presidential inauguration, Donald Trump filed a notice (FEC Form 99) with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) of his intention to run for reelection in 2020. That means non-profit groups, including the Catholic Church, will need to refrain from speech and activities that may be construed as against and undermining political candidate Donald Trump, unless those groups want their tax-exempt status to be revoked.
See “Trump card: Trump filed for 2020 reelection with SEC, thereby gagging non-profits“
On January 25, his third full day on the job as president and 5 days after he’d filed Form 99 with the FEC that he’s a 2020 political candidate, President Trump fulfilled his campaign promises concerning illegal “immigration” by signing two executive orders:
(1) Executive Order: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, which authorizes the following:
- Construction of a “contiguous physical wall” along the roughly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, in the interest of border and national security. Planning of wall construction will begin immediately.
- Detention of aliens “apprehended for violations of immigration law pending the outcome of their removal proceedings or their removal from the country to the extent permitted by law.”
- Deportation of aliens “described in section 235(b)(2)(C) of the INA (8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(2)(C))” and their return “to the territory from which they came pending a formal removal proceeding” and “consistent with the requirements of section 1232 of title 8, United States Code.
- End “the abuse of parole and asylum provisions currently used to prevent the lawful removal of removable aliens.”
(2) Executive Order: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of United States, which authorizes the following:
- Defunding of sanctuary states and cities that willfully violate Federal immigration law in an attempt to shield aliens, including criminals, from removal from the United States and, in so doing, “have caused immeasurable harm to the American people and to the very fabric of our Republic.” Henceforth, “jurisdictions that willfully refuse to comply with 8 U.S.C. 1373 (sanctuary jurisdictions) are not eligible to receive Federal grants, except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes by the Attorney General or the Secretary.”
- Priority removal of aliens who have been convicted of or charged with any criminal offense; committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense; abused any program related to receipt of public benefits; or “In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.”
- Assessment and collection of all fines and penalties from aliens unlawfully present in the United States and from those who facilitate their presence in the United States.
To aid in the enforcement of the above two executive orders, Trump also authorized the hiring and assignment of 15,000 new Border Control and immigration agents, “as soon as is practicable”.
On the same day that President Trump signed the above two executive orders, Joe Vásquez, Bishop of the Diocese of Austin, Texas, issued a statement opposing the presidential orders:
WASHINGTON–President Donald J Trump today issued executive orders to construct a wall at the U.S./Mexico border, to significantly increase immigrant detention and deportation, and to disregard/preempt/overrule the judgment of state and local law enforcement on how best to protect their communities.
In response to the decision to build a wall on the U.S./Mexico border, Bishop Joe Vasquez, Chair of the Committee of Migration and Bishop of the Diocese of Austen, stated:
“I am disheartened that the President has prioritized building a wall on our border with Mexico. This action will put immigrants’ lives needlessly in harm’s way. Construction of such a wall will only make migrants, especially vulnerable women and children, more susceptible to traffickers and smugglers. Additionally, the construction of such a wall destabilizes the many vibrant and beautifully interconnected communities that live peacefully along the border. Instead of building walls, at this time, my brothers bishops and I will continue to follow the example of Pope Francis. We will ‘look to build bridges between people, bridges that allow us to break down the walls of exclusion and exploitation.'”
In regards to President Trump’s authorization of the detention and deportation of illegal aliens, whom Bishop Vasquez disingenuously calls “immigrants,” he writes:
“The announced increase in immigration detention space and immigration enforcement activities is alarming. It will tear families apart and spark fear and panic in communities. While we respect the right of our federal government to control our borders and ensure security for all Americans, we do not believe that a large scale escalation of immigration detention and intensive increased use of enforcement in immigrant communities is the way to achieve those goals. Instead, we remain in our commitment to comprehensive, compassionate, and common-sense reform. We fear that the policy announced today will make it much more difficult for the vulnerable to access protection in our country. Everyday my brother bishops and I witness the harmful effects of immigrant detention in our ministries. We experience the pain of severed families that struggle to maintain a semblance of normal family life. We see traumatized children in our schools and in our churches. The policies announced today will only further upend immigrant families.”
“We will continue to support and stand in solidarity with immigrant families. We remind our communities and our nation that these families have intrinsic value as children of God. And to all those impacted by today’s decision, we are here to walk with you and accompany you on this journey.”
Nowhere in his statement does Bishop Vasquez:
- Acknowledge that the “immigrant” families are in the United States illegally in violation of U.S. laws.
- Acknowledge that illegal aliens have committed heinous crimes, including rape and murder.
- Recognize that illegal aliens are a drain on already overburdened federal and state government resources — those of welfare, food stamps, schooling and healthcare — in a country with a national debt of $20 trillion.
- Recognize the “pain” of or display “compassion” for beleaguered U.S. taxpayers.
- Offer an alternative policy on how to address the illegal “immigration” problem, or even acknowledge that it is a problem.
Notice that in his statement, Vasquez referred only to “immigrant” “women and children,” as if there are no adult male illegal aliens — a tactic also used by those who want the U.S. to open our doors to Muslim refugees.
Notice also that in his statement, Vasquez made repeated references to “we” and “my brother bishops and I,” thereby implying that he speaks not just as Bishop of the Diocese of Austin, but on behalf of all U.S. bishops.
Indeed, Vásquez, who is of Mexican-American heritage, serves on the Subcommittee on Hispanic Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and claims to be Chair of the Committee on Migration, although the USCCB website shows the Chair to be Auxiliary Bishop of Seattle Eusebio. Vásquez also serves on the Board of Directors of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the international charity organization founded by the USCCB in 1943, whose employees gave nearly all of their political donations to pro-abortion political candidates, although the Catholic Church regards abortion as an intrinsic evil for which no justification or rationalization is acceptable. (See “98% of Catholic Relief Services’ contributions go to pro-abort politicians“).
Bishop Vasquez should be reported to the IRS for violating the prohibition against tax-exempt organizations intervening in favor of or against a candidate for political office. To report him, use the IRS Form 3949-A, and mail the completed form to:
Internal Revenue Service
Fresno, CA 93888
Vasquez can be reached at:
- Phone: (512) 949-2415
- Email his executive assistant Melinda Johnson: email@example.com