Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) on Wednesday suggested that banning tax-exempt churches from participating in political campaigns or endorsing candidates was something that communist countries would do.
Current tax law prohibits tax-exempt organizations from engaging in certain political activities, but Jones has pushed to pass the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act, which would exempt only churches from the rules.
Speaking to the Truth that Transforms radio show on Wednesday, Jones compared threatening churches with loss of their tax exempt status to communism and socialism.
“I think it’s a law that is very difficult to enforce and in fact the Internal Revenue Service will tell you and they testified to this that they are dependent on a third party to report,” the North Carolina congressman explained to host John Rabe.
“Is that communism? Is that socialism? What is that?” Jones added.
“Yeah, it’s spying on each other,” Rabe agreed.
“I think those on the conservative side believe in freedom of speech and therefore they’re not reporting anyone,” Jones continued. “I’m just telling you this is one of those issues that ought to be repealed, let’s get it off the books and let’s return this country to freedom of speech.”
After Jones first introduced the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act in 2003, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) warned that the measure “clearly provides a preference and benefit to religious non-profit 501(c)(3)s that it denies to all other non-profit 501(c)(3)s.”
“This is blatant discrimination against non-religious 501(c)(3)s, and violates both the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment and constitutional guarantees of equal protection under law,” ACLU Legislative Analyst Terri A. Schroeder wrote.
“By affording special protection to the tax-exempt status of religious non-profit organizations only, the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act unconstitutionally discriminates against secular non-profit organizations.”
Terry Randall’s Church at Pierce Creek was the last church to have its tax-exempt status revoked after it purchased an advertisement opposing the election of then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton (D). The church said it would “gladly” accept “tax deductible donations for this advertisement.”
Listen to this audio from Truth that Transforms via Right Wing Watch, broadcast May 23, 2012.
Photo: Flickr/Rep. Walter Jones