Letters to the editor 10/17

October 17, 2002

Voter guides could cost churches

To the editor:

I want to alert local clergy to the potential consequences of distributing voter guides in their churches: The risk of losing their tax-exempt status. If a church loses its tax exempt status, it must pay taxes on church income and purchases.

Churches and other non-profit organizations that hold 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status must abide by Internal Revenue Service regulations barring any involvement in partisan politics. (If they want the benefit, they must abide by the rules.)

The blanket prohibition concerns only races for public office, not issues. Religious leaders may speak out from the pulpit or in other forums on moral and political issues. However, churches and pastors may not endorse candidates for public office or advise congregants to vote for or against certain candidates. Federal tax law in this area is quite strict, and the IRS has indicated that it follows a "zero tolerance" policy toward violations.


Of course a church can distribute educational materials to church members. That fits within the activities permitted by its tax exemption. Many voter guides fall within this category: Those produced by the newspaper or by non partisan groups such as the League of Women Voters. The problem arises with partisan voter guides, ones that recommend or endorse particular candidates. The guides produced by the Christian Coalition and distributed to many area churches for distribution fall in this category.

Houses of worship should be extremely wary of voter guides produced by outside groups. When a guide has been produced by an outside organization, church leaders have no way of knowing if the answers are accurate or if the guide has been intentionally slanted to favor a certain candidate.

The Christian Coalition has been accused of both intentionally slanting its guides and including inaccuracies of some candidates' positions.

Moreover, Christian Coalition guides rarely, if ever, cover a wide range of issues. Indeed the Christian Coalition lost its tax exemption in 1999 in part because its activities went beyond the educational and were determined to be political.

If a voter guide produced by an outside group is determined to be partisan in character and is distributed in church, the IRS has the legal right to penalize the church even though it did not produce the guide.

I recommend any church considering distributing a voter guide ask its lawyer to determine if the guide is truly nonpartisan or if it is partisan, causing the church to risk its tax-exempt status. That is the wise and prudent course of action.

Roger Wolf

Knoxville, Md.

Thanks for supporting Relay for Life

To the editor:

Special thanks to all those customers and friends who supported our first fundraising effort for Relay for Life 2003.

A huge bake sale was held on Saturday, Sept. 28, in front of Earl's Market, in downtown State Line, Pa.

Dozens and dozens of customers supported us that morning by nearly buying out the store. Two and a half tables absolutely groaning with baked goods, candy, snack items, soup and more, faithful customers and a good sunny day made it possible for us to raise $441.85 towards next year's RFL.

Thanks also to Joe Lesko, owner of Earl's Market, for allowing us to use the front of his store that morning for our sale. Joe is a very faithful supporter of the Franklin County Unit of the American Cancer Society and we appreciate this very much.

Last, but not least, a big thank you to our baking crew of team members Susie Asper, Rosie Hykes, Ada and Roy Leckron, Jean and Earl Leckron, Lori, Curt and Rachel Leckron, and supporting family and friends Tara Brechbiel, Myrtle Hartle, Sherry Moon, Dorothy Murray, Meredith Perini and Gladys Robinson for all of their hard work this past week baking and cooking for this event.

We couldn't have done it without all of you!

Darlene Higgins

Team Captain

Jaywalkers Team

RFL 2003

State Line, Pa.

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