LDS church should be investigated for contributions

By By Jonathan Stafford

By Jonathan Stafford

A California group known as Californians Against Hate has filed charges with the California Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate the extent of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ financial support for the California ban on same-sex marriages.

The group claims that the LDS Church established the National Organization for Marriage in California as a front group to hide funding and didn’t fully disclose its involvement in other non-monetary campaign contributions such as compensated staff time for senior church officials and the creation of 23 TV and Internet commercials.

Only church officials know the validity of these accusations, but it seems an investigation would be a good way to shed light on the subject for everyone else. If the LDS Church has nothing to hide, it would be beneficial for it to cooperate to the fullest extent in order to vindicate itself from the Proposition 8 storm that continues to blow in its direction.

Recent disclosures by officials of the LDS Church revealed that it spent at least $134,774 in non-monetary support, $79,774 more than the $55,000 initially reported. This sudden number change shows the need for an investigation of the LDS Church’s books in order to pinpoint exactly what was spent where.

The question then becomes this: If the LDS Church did indeed spend more to support the Proposition 8 campaign than it stated, what effect does this have on itself and Proposition 8?

If it can be proven that the LDS Church did indeed use the National Organization for Marriage in California to front its funding, that could serve a blow to its tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status given to churches by the Internal Revenue Service. IRS documents state that, “In general, no organization, including a church, may qualify for IRC section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying),” and “The organization may not intervene in political campaigns.”

Although it seems like this basically describes what the LDS Church did in campaigning for Proposition 8, new revelations on what extent it did could and should make the IRS more likely to take action and review the LDS Church’s status in this respect.

The possible effect the investigation could have on Proposition 8 is less clear. The California Supreme Court debated the initiative’s constitutionality March 6 and should have a decision within 90 days, but even the most ardent gay rights supporters are skeptical that it will be overturned.

If the court rules in favor of Proposition 8, it will be more of an uphill battle to get the action reversed, even if the LDS Church is found to have supported it more than it claimed.

Nevertheless, a probing investigation into the LDS Church’s financial support of Proposition 8 is essential to preserve a separation of church and state and to send a strong and simple message to all 501(c)(3) tax-exempt bodies: Stay politically neutral, or lose your favorable tax status.

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John Stafford