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May 17, 2004

POLITICS AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: Andrew Sullivan has a piece in Time on this subject, and the TaxProf blog wonders if the Church might be endangering its tax exemption by getting too involved in telling people how to vote. (Prof. Bainbridge is unhappy).

Being neither Catholic nor a tax professor, I don't have very strong feelings on this subject. (I was raised Methodist; now I'm Presbyterian. Why the shift? I guess it was predestined. . . .) I will note, though, that some folks who are approving the Catholic Church's political stances are normally quick to bristle when people worry that Catholic politicians are likely to base their votes on Church pronouncements. But when you talk, as some Bishops are doing, of denying Catholic politicians communion based on their legislative votes, it seems to me that you leave yourself open to such claims.

I think, also, that Jonah Goldberg is wrong to suggest that tax exemptions for religious institutions are constitutionally required. Taxes that discriminated against religious entities would be unconstitutional, but I believe that tax exemptions are a matter of legislative grace, not a constitutional entitlement.

UPDATE: John Murphy emails: "Generations of Democrat politicans have held forth from Black churches without a peep from the IRS. Are we on track for another double standard?"

Well, the IRS isn't peeping now, and isn't likely to. Just some tax professors.

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