Nation's Largest Jewish Organization Welcomes IRS Decision Revoking Christian Coalition’s Tax Exemption
SAPERSTEIN: "There is nothing wrong or dishonorable about partisan politics, but it should not be done under the cloak of religious authority, or underwritten by a tax exception"
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jeff Mandell, 202-387-2800
WASHINGTON, June 10, 1999 - Responding to reports that that Internal Revenue Service has decided to revoke the tax exemption of the Christian Coalition due to its partisan political activity, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
We welcome the reported decision of the IRS to revoke the tax exempt status of the Christian Coalition not because (well, not only because) it proves what we've said for years - that Pat Robertson and the Christian Coalition are playing partisan politics under the guise of being a religious organization. We welcome the decision because it provides an appropriate and timely warning to all religious and charitable organizations - if you fly too close to the heat of partisan politics, you will get burned.
Clearly, for many religious organizations, public policy advocacy is an appropriate and important element of their prophetic mission. But the line between issue advocacy and partisan politicking is an important one, and one which organizations - religious and otherwise - who accept a tax exemption must not cross.
As for the future of the Christian Coalition, we are confident that we have not seen the last of them. As long as Pat Robertson has millions of dollars to pump into political activity, he will surely find some mechanism to do so. What is important about today's decision, however, is that it makes clear that Robertson, and others who would walk down the same road, must be honest about what they are doing, and acknowledge that they are playing politics. There is nothing wrong or dishonorable about partisan politics, but it should not be done under the cloak of religious authority, or underwritten by a tax exception.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,800 Reform rabbis in 875 congregations throughout North America.