Scott Wells offers useful observations on churches and political endorsements.
But I still haven't found an answer to a question I had the last time this subject came up:
Why are churches treated differently from other nonprofits? This isn't simply a pitch to tax the churches (which I have suggested before). Instead,it's about why churches as nonprofits are classified separately from secular nonprofits.
Scott says the First Amendment is the reason, but (perhaps because I'm not a lawyer) I don't follow that.
Both, say, the East Bainbridge United Way and the First Baptist Church face IRS restrictions in how they can comment on politics (specifically, neither can endorse political candidates). Neither organization pays taxes.
Yet there's a whole special category of "church" for First Baptist Church. One side effect: Organizations that function as a church but are for some reason not structured in the way the IRS thinks a church should be end up being held up for special scrutiny.
It seems to me that to treat the First Baptist Church differently than the East Bainbridge United Way (or any other nonprofit) at best skirts the Establishment Clause: it privileges an organization simply because it is a "church". On the other side, it also forces that organization to justify itself as a church. Talk about government entanglement with religion!
So can someone explain the justification for this difference? I'd really like to know -- and I didn't want to hijack Scott's thread in the process.
3 hours ago