Arizona Gov. Brewer signs bill allowing churches political power
Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/2010/07/MahurinReligion_Thumb.jpgOn the week of the one-year anniversary of Arizona’s controversial anti-immigration bill — which has provoked copycats throughout the country — Republican Gov. Jan Brewer signed controversial legislation concerning the political clout of religious institutions, among other issues.
Senate Bill 1282 will create a statue explicitly allowing any religious assembly or institution to speak out on political issues without having to register as a political action campaign, provided the organization “does not spend a substantial amount of time or assets, within the meaning of section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, on influencing any federal state or local legislation, referendum, initiative or constitutional amendment. ”
The content of the bill is pretty sparse, opening up a broad interpretation for “substantial amount.”
Regarding federal tax-exempt rules, the IRS states:
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.
Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.
The Center for Arizona Policy, which helped craft the bill’s language along with Senate sponsor Steve Yarbrough, has posited this bill as free-speech legislation. In its fact sheet on the proposed law, the group lists the following talking points:
- The First Amendment protects the rights of churches and religious leaders to speak out on public issues. This bill simply clarifies that campaign finance laws do not apply to speech by churches on issues of public importance that are being considered as ballot measures.
- Churches have the right to speak about the critical issues of our time. This bill protects that right by bringing Arizona into compliance with the Ninth Circuit court ruling.
- This bill protects churches from government intrusion into their religious practices and message. Government officials should not be monitoring a pastor’s religious speech from the pulpit to determine whether it is “too political.” This is excessive entanglement of the government with religion and is not constitutionally permissible.
Brewer also signed the following bills Monday:
- SB 1188 – Requires marital status “to be considered” in adoption placements — establishing a preference for children to be adopted by a married man and woman, “when all relevant factors are equal.”
- SB 1169 – Clarifies that the board of nursing cannot allow nurse practitioners to perform surgical abortions.
Other CAP-supported bills waiting for Brewer’s signature include: