Interest in this blog has far exceeded my expectations when I put it up, and many pro-8 and/or LDS members posting comments have argued that the LDS Church did nothing wrong; others have incorrectly argued that their actions were more egregious than they actually were. Here are some of their arguments:
- The Church did not directly donate to organizations attempting to influence Proposition 8.
False. Campaign finance records show that an in-kind donation of $2,078.97 from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was made on Oct. 25 to ProtectMarriage.com. (Salt Lake Tribune, 29 October 2008.) [Editor: A later filing showed a contribution as of 2 November for an additional $2,864.21.]
- Ballot initiatives aren’t legislation or a political candidate, and therefore aren’t covered by the statute.
False. Ballot initiatives are indeed legislation, and “no substantial part of the activities of [a tax-exempt entity may be] carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation” according to Internal Revenue Code Title 26, §501. In related law, §4911(e)(2) (regulating political activity by certain non-church charitable organizations) states:The term “legislation” includes action with respect to Acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items by the Congress, any State legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, or by the public in a referendum, initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure.
- Because the donation the Church made directly was so small, its activities were not substantial.
False. The interpretation of the phrase “no substantial part” is not based solely on monetary or percentage terms. See Rosemary Fei’s Introduction to Lobbying by Charities and Joanna Pressman’s
Legislative and Political Activity Campaign Limitations….
- The Mormon Church donated most of the money to support Proposition 8.
False. The LDS church only directly donated in-kind travel expenses; its members, however, did donate approximately 50% of the funds collected by ProtectMarriage.org. This common misunderstanding stems from the fact that over 50% of the donations to ProtectMarriage.org after 29 June 2008 came from Church members responding to President Monson’s call to action on that date and subsequent fundraising efforts by church and local leaders.