Doctrine & Covenants on Influence of Religions

8 November 2008

We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; …

We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.

Doctrine and Covenants 134:4,9

Have the Mormons’ religious opinions prompted them to infringe on the rights and liberties of others? Unquestionably. Last month, a Californian could marry anyone he or she chose; today, no.

Has the LDS Church mingled religious influence with civil government, fostering its and other conservative churches’ definition of marriage, while proscribing the spiritual privileges of Unitarian and other liberal churches to solemnize their members’ same-sex unions as lawful marriage, and denying the individual rights of these churches’ members to marry whomever they choose? Undoubtedly.

Thanks to “LDS Hypocrisy” for pointing this section out in a comment.


Goals of This Blog

7 November 2008

The first aim of my work was to provide a resource to a large population of individuals who want to issue a formal complaint to the IRS about the LDS Church’s involvement in Proposition 8, but didn’t know how. I posted two other thoughts on why I felt the Church was more hypocritical than many of its counterparts with respect to both supporting “traditional marriage” and overturning a legitimate California Supreme Court ruling. There wasn’t any particular relationship between these ideas, other than my dismay at the Church’s role in the passage of Proposition 8.

As the interest in this blog grows, another goal has appeared: we must demonstrate broad taxpayer concern about the LDS Church’s substantial activities to influence legislation — Proposition 8. While it indeed may not directly lead to revocation of the Church’s tax status, I am hopeful that our work may have three useful consequences, no matter what the IRS decides.

First, submission of an unprecedented number of complaints may convince the IRS to investigate the matter and clarify the “no substantial part” test and whether churches’ instructing their members to engage in substantial activity to influence legislation means those members act as agents of the church. Under certain tests, an expenditure of $20 million qualifies as “substantial”, and such an expenditure by church members at the direct instruction of church leaders may constitute prohibited activity. And, are members of a church, who attend services, donate money to the church, and obey church leaders in conducting their personal lives, agents of that church when they engage in substantial activity to influence legislation at church leaders’ instructions? These gray areas would benefit from clarification, and a large number of complaints may lead to that.

Second, a massive peaceful outcry against the Church’s activities may convince Church leaders that its political activities have a negative impact on the Church’s reputation in the world. The LDS church works hard to maintain a positive, uplifting image, through its humanitarian work, the appearance of its buildings, the conduct of its members, and even uplifting television and radio advertising.
By maintaining respectful but vocal discourse opposing the Church’s political activities, particularly in a way that demonstrates that the Church’s reputation has been damaged, Church leaders may be less likely to engage in political activism in the future.

Finally, sufficient interest in this activity could lead to support for amending state and federal regulation of tax-exempt entities. Perhaps this does not merit revocation of the LDS Church’s 501(c)(3) status today, but perhaps the Church’s activities have highlighted the issue in an unprecedented way. Now, there may be enough support to change tax law so that endorsement of and opposition to ballot initiatives are prohibited, just as these entities are prohibited from endorsing or opposing a particular candidate. (This idea will get a new post.)


Common Misunderstandings

7 November 2008

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.

Brigham Young on Marriage

3 November 2008

It wasn’t difficult to find words of the prophet Brigham Young about the role of government in defining marriage. What will be difficult is for the Church to reconcile its position on Proposition 8 with these teachings of one of its greatest leaders, while he was the President of the Church and God’s mouthpiece for His faithful on Earth. These are written in the Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, pp. 266 ff.

Who knows but the time will come when the inquiry will be made in Washington, by the President, by the Congressmen: “Are things any worse in Utah than in Washington: than they are in New York? or in any State of the Union? are they more unvirtuous, are they more disloyal to the Government? But then there is polygamy.” That has nothing in the least to do with our being loyal or disloyal, one way or the other. But is not the practice of polygamy a transgression of the law of the United States? How are we transgressing that law? In no other way than by obeying a revelation which God has given unto us touching a religious ordinance of his Church. And the anti-polygamy law has yet to be tested, as to its constitutionality, by the courts which have jurisdiction. By and by men will appear in the departments of the Government who will inquire into the validity of some laws and question their constitutionality.

Above, Young implies that the anti-polygamy law did not need to be obeyed as it had not yet been tested in courts with appropriate jurisdiction. One would further infer from this that Young would be (justifiably) concerned if an anti-polygamy law were upheld as constitutional in a court of competent jurisdiction.

Young then immediately continues (emphasis added),

Marriage is a civil contract. You might as well make a law to say how many children a man shall have, as to make a law to say how many wives he shall have. It would be as sensible to make a law to say how many horses or oxen he shall possess, or how many cows his wife shall milk.

Young opposed a law that stated that a man could only marry one woman — not a far cry from “marriage shall be defined as the union of one man and one woman.” The words of this latter-day prophet are unequivocal: marriage is a civil contract. It is not a function of the government, and government’s role in protecting the “traditional meaning of marriage” didn’t carry a whit of weight to Brigham Young. Clearly, the tradition cited by LDS opponents of same-sex marriage is not as old as their relatively young church (no pun intended).

Young meant that if a man wished to marry five women, and those women desired to enter into those marriage contracts, they should be entitled to do so without the interference of the government. But this logic also means that if two women wish to marry each other, those two individuals should be entitled to enter an equivalent civil contract that a man and a woman might wish to enter into. Young’s point is that the government should not make laws about individuals’ rights to enter into civil contracts.


LDS Articles of Faith

3 November 2008

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

THE ARTICLES OF FAITH OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
History of the Church, Vol. 4, pp. 535—541

LDS Church members and leaders who support the “Yes on 8” and “Protect Marriage” campaign believe that the magistrates (judges) on the California State Supreme Court were wrong, and are not honoring and sustaining the law as written in the California state constitution and interpreted by duly appointed and confirmed judges on the bench.

There is no reason to make this post longer: either you believe in being subject to the magistrates who were appointed to interpret the law of California, and honoring and sustaining that law, or you don’t.  Clearly, the LDS Church believes that this article of faith only applies when the magistrates’ opinions and law of the land are consistent with Church doctrine.  (Ironically, anti-polygamy laws were influential on the Church in the late 19th century, when the Church restricted its more expansive definition of marriage practices to become in line with the law of the land.)



How to File an IRS 501(c)(3) Complaint

29 October 2008

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the “Mormon” or LDS Church) has gone too far in promoting the 2008 California Proposition 8, which would claims to amend the California state constitution to define marriage as one man and one woman in order to supersede a state supreme court opinion issued earlier this year. [Whether the proposition was a lawful amendment or a revision that cannot legally be made by a voter initiative remains an open question.]

Section 501(c)(3) of US Code Title 26, which governs tax-exempt organizations, reads (emphasis added):

(3) Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes, or to foster national or international amateur sports competition (but only if no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment), or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals, no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual, no substantial part of the activities of which is carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting, to influence legislation (except as otherwise provided in subsection (h)), and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.

(The “otherwise provided” clause does not apply, as the LDS Church, being a church, is a disqualified entity as described in subsection (h).)

The LDS church, through inciting its members to donate time and means to support Proposition 8 (resulting in millions of dollars of cash contributions from its members and countless volunteer hours), and in-kind campaign contributions to a group that supports Proposition 8, has now made a substantial part of its activities attempting to influence legislation.

You can help! Send the IRS an official complaint about the LDS Church’s activities, either by email, fax or US Mail.

  1. Prepare a copy of the Official LDS Prop. 8 Letter read in all LDS churches in California on 29 June 2008.
  2. Prepare one or more other articles of your choice (you can use these links, or do your own research) showing the LDS Church’s substantial activities attempting to influence this legislation.
  3. Prepare this Pre-Filled IRS Form 13909 and add your personal information, or fill out a Blank IRS Form 13909 from scratch with the information in the pre-filled form (these links and an alternative filled form are copied below in RESOURCES.)
  4. Don’t forget to date your referral at the top and include your submitter information. If you are a member of the Church, you may wish to check the box marked “I am concerned that I might face retaliation or retribution if my identity is disclosed.”
  5. Send it to the IRS, either by:
    * Email: Prepare your documents as PDF’s or web links, and send your complaint form with supporting documentation to eoclass@irs.gov.
    * Fax: fax your documents to (214) 413-5415
    * Mail: mail your documents to
    IRS EO Classification
    Mail Code 4910DAL
    1100 Commerce Street
    Dallas TX 75242-1198


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RESOURCES:
Official IRS Complaint Process for Tax-Exempt Organizations
US Code Title 26, Section 501
Official LDS Prop. 8 Letter
List of LDS Entities (Source of Tax ID Number)

Information required for IRS Form 13909:
Name of Referred Organization: The Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Street Address: 50 E. North Temple St., Salt Lake City UT 84150
Organization’s EIN: 23-7300405
For Section 4, see the Pre-Filled IRS Form 13909, or write your concerns in your own words. If your reader will not open that form, try the Alternative Pre-Filled 13909.