Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Great news! Another New England state joins heartland Iowa in standing up for civil rights. Vermont becomes the fourth state to legalize same sex marriage. Good for Vermont, good for the country. Congratulations to everyone for all the hard work and dedication. On to Maine!

Vermont approves gay marriage

Vermont today became the fourth state to legalize gay marriage — and the first to do so with a legislature’s vote.

The Burlington Free Press reports that Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry was overturned by a 23-5 vote in the state Senate and 100-49 in the House. Under Vermont law, two-thirds of each chamber had to vote for override.

Vermont becomes the fourth state to permit same-sex marriage, joining Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa. Their approval of gay marriage came from the courts.


Time said...

Can you feel the love?

Shaw Kenawe said...

There's never enough of that, is there. I'm happy to see this country becoming more and more dedicated to its best ideals.

James Wolfer said...

Now if only the California Supreme Court would overturn proposition 8 and Oregon could overturn measure 36...

Christopher said...

It's so satisfying on so many levels:

1. the VT lawmakers pushed back against a Republican governor out of touch with the majority of people who voted for him

2. gay marriage equality is shaping up to be the social issue of the early 21st century and VT is leading the way

3. this is going to be an economic winner for the state, as gay and lesbian couples will now plan weddings, bring much needed dollars to a cash-strapped state

Major high five to Vermont and to the Mormon bigots who may be thinking of political activism -- be warned. Pull another Prop 8 and you're going to lose your much beloved tax exempt status.

James Wolfer said...

As much as I don't agree with proposition 8, I also am against taking away tax exemption. It's unconstitutional. Separation of church and state.

The government CANNOT govern religion. THAT'S why they have tax exempt status. The same way those religious leaders cannot simply tell the government what to do like what happened when kings and emperors bowed to the Pope.

If mormons want to band together and vote on something based on their consciences, then they should be allowed to do so, as much as we would like to disagree.

Christopher said...

The IRS is very clear on the matter of churches and tax exemption. These rules, written by Congress and enforced by the IRS, enshrine the separation of church and state and they exist for a reason.

"TITLE 26--INTERNAL REVENUE CODE; Sec. 501 Exemption from tax on corporations, certain trusts, etc.; (c) List of exempt organizations; (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 sport competition... or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals... no substancial part of the activities of which is carry on propoganda, or likewise 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) and political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office."

If a church such as the Ladder Day Saints wants to further their commitment to homophobia and political activism, that's all fine and well and they're free to do so, but they will cease to be considered a church and should lose their tax exmempt status.

Lynne said...

I agree with Christopher. They certainly have the right to feel however they want about it but they should stay the hell out of making/blocking laws regarding it. I'm sick of homophobes.

TAO said...

The reality is when does a church cease to be a church and becomes a movement?

Churches deserve their tax exempt status when they are religious institutions. Of course even that term has been broadened to such an extent.

But when churches use their clout and money to campaign, to sponsor, to support activities and or policies outside the confines of their church facility they are really pushing the envelope.

When Priests broadcast that they are withholding communion from a candidate then they are political.

When you wear the uniform of an office then even if speaking as an individual you are perceived as representative of the church.

But then again, the more churches push to influence issues the more Americans claim to believe in God but are turned off by organized religion...

The more influence they attempt to have now just seems to lessen the influence they have in areas where they traditionally had tremendous influence.

(O)CT(O)PUS said...

Old lyrics from an old song >>>

"I'm my own religion
heaven sent.
Now I'm fully tax-exempt."

Getting myself into the spirit of lower taxes, I have formed the United Church of Octopodia, where an entire species change will give you a new perspective on life. Every Sunday, we meet on the beach, read from the Book of Parthenogenesis, and sing: "In Cod we trust."

After the sermon, coffee and crustaceans will be served.

James Wolfer said...

But its not like they lobbied. They just all had a specific belief. While ignorant, are you going to now tell Mormons that to keep their tax exempt status they aren't allowed to vote anymore?

All it was was a bunch of people that believed the same way came out and voted according to their beliefs. That's not violating anything.

Will you tell evangelicals they can't vote anymore or lose their tax exemption if it turns out that they are coming out and voting against abortion?

James Wolfer said...

Read this post and see what I mean. Roy put it better than I ever could. While we both are not mormons and we disagree with what they did, we don't think stripping them of their tax exemption is the answer.


dmarks said...

Tao said: "But when churches use their clout and money to campaign, to sponsor, to support activities and or policies outside the confines of their church facility they are really pushing the envelope."

Does this apply to all church activities? A strict interepretation of this would have had Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King staying at the pulpit and never leading marches or pushing for civil rights reforms.


As an aside, taxing churches is not unconstitutional at all. The first amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"

Taxing churches the same way everyone else is taxed keeps with the amendment's idea of keeping out of religious matters.

Also, using the tax code as a weapon (as discussed here about changing the Mormon's status) is an example of Congress "prohibiting the free exercise thereof".

Imagine if the tax code were entirely neutral and "unknowing" of religious matters.

James Wolfer said...

Churches were only added to section 501c3 of the tax code in 1954 by Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson in order to silence religious organizations.

Churches never needed to seek permission from the government to be exempt from taxes. Churches prior to 1954 were not taxable. In fact, churches have never been taxable. To be taxable a church would first need to be under the jurisdiction, and therefore under the taxing authority, of the government. The First Amendment clearly places the church outside the jurisdiction of the civil government: "Congress shall make NO LAW respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

According to IRS Code § 508(c)(1)(A):

Special rules with respect to section 501(c)(3) organizations.
(a) New organizations must notify secretary that they are applying for recognition of section 501(c)(3) status.
(c) Exceptions.
(1) Mandatory exceptions. Subsections (a) and (b) shall not apply to—
(A) churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches.
This is referred to as the "mandatory exception" rule. Thus, we see from the IRS’ own publications, and the tax code, that it is completely unnecessary for any church to apply for tax-exempt status. In the IRS’ own words a church “is automatically tax-exempt.”

And what about tax-deductibility? Doesn’t a church still need to become a 501c3 so that contributions to it can be taken as a tax deduction? The answer is no! According to IRS Publication 526:

Organizations That Qualify To Receive Deductible Contributions
You can deduct your contributions only if you make them to a qualified organization. To become a qualified organization, most organizations other than churches and governments, as described below, must apply to the IRS.
In the IRS’ own words a church “is automatically tax-deductible.”


Arthurstone said...

dmarks typed:

'Does this apply to all church activities? A strict interepretation of this would have had Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King staying at the pulpit and never leading marches or pushing for civil rights reforms.'

Actually an incorrect interpretation which has no basis whatever.

"The only ting churches may not do is endorse or oppose candidates for public office or use their resources in partisan campaigns. This restriction, which is found in federal tax law, is not limited to churches and other religious ministries. In fact, it is applied to every non-profit organization in the country that holds a tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code."

James Wolfer said...

But as I said Arthurstone, churches are exempt regardless of tax law, because they are churches! The power to tax is power over something, which the State does not have over the churches and the churches cannot order the government around.

dmarks said...

Arthur: So the Mormons are within their rights to oppose gay marriage everywhere?

James: Churches and clergy are already subject to myriad laws and restrictions and obligations. The government already has great control over churches with building codes and other such matters. How is taxation so different from the rest of this?

The section of the Constitution we are referring to makes no such distinction between the many laws which bind clergy and churches (just as they bind everyone else) and taxation.

James Wolfer said...

But as we saw with AIG, when the government can tax, they can control. Before 501(c), churches were exempt, and still are even without it. 501(c) is there to control the churches by making them apolitical, which isn't right.

Religion was behind the anti-slavery movement.

Religion was behind the civil rights movement.

Pushing people to do what it believes is right isn't lobbying. Churches can and always have been political, on both sides of every issue.

Taking its tax exempt status isn't the answer. You'll just make martyrs out of them.

James Wolfer said...


Many of those restrictions have to do with public safety. Building codes? Public safety.

The difference here would be the attempt to silence their political opinions merely because they are based on their faith, which would be trying to control religion.

dmarks said...

"Many of those restrictions have to do with public safety. Building codes? Public safety."

So? How does that make a difference? It is still government controlling religion every bit as much as taxing religious institutions would be.

Arthurstone said...

dmarks wondered:

Arthur: So the Mormons are within their rights to oppose gay marriage everywhere?

Mormons are. Of course. As citizens of the USA we are free to pick and choose sides on any issue.

As for 'The Mormons' if by that you mean church officials seeking donations or spending church funds on a specific issue, candidate or election I'd say not.

Let's sue and find out.

dmarks said...

"Let's sue and find out."

The Feiger era of public policy. Heh.

James Wolfer said...

If that is what they are doing as a "Church" then they have become a lobby, not a Church.

If Mormons is great numbers want to oppose an issue, thats okay.

Dmarks: No it isn't. As we've seen with AIG and the taxation at 90%, the power to tax is the power to control. Revoking tax exemption merely because some people are political activists AND mormons is ridiculous and a suppression of religion.

dmarks said...

James: Actually, through all of this, I need to make clear that my main point is questioning the whole tax exemption idea in general.

(I also question it for dubious "charities" such as United Way, which directly pays to make make millionaires richer).

James Wolfer said...

Dmarks: I see. I think they should still be tax exempt as long as the money they bring in are from their members and they are spending their funds on church matters.

If they start putting those funds into say, lobbying, they are crossing from a religious institution to a political one. But pushing their members to vote on something isn't doing that.

Most religious institutions are tax exempt because all of their income comes from donations (i.e offering plates) given by their members. Many of them use a large percentage of that money for church matters, such as mission work and helping their own members out. I used to work in collections, and many customers would call in and be able to pay because their church was helping them get debt free before leaving on their 2 year mission.