So How About the Churches Next?

By Mark Trodden | September 1, 2006 7:30 am

The Washington Post reports that the IRS has ended its two-year probe of the NAACP’s tax-exempt status. The probe was initiated at the request of multiple Republican senators. This isn’t a crime of course, but it is deeply troubling that the NAACP’s lawyers ultimately had to use the Freedom of Information Act to get access to this information about what our supposedly transparent government of the people were up to.

The rationale for the probe was comments made by NAACP Chairman Julian Bond:

Bond criticized Bush in a speech in July 2004, saying his administration preached racial neutrality and practiced racial division.

“They write a new constitution of Iraq and they ignore the Constitution at home,” Bond said.

I guess there is a reasonable discussion to be had about whether such public statements constitute a partisan position that is forbidden in the tax-exempt category, although it seems to me they are just the plain truth.

But if we’re going to investigate the NAACP for such relatively mild statements, how about the evangelical right wing churches next? In fact, since

The investigation started Oct. 8, 2004, a month before the election. As the investigation dragged on into the following February, the NAACP announced that it would not continue to cooperate.

Angela Ciccolo, an NAACP lawyer, noted that although Bond’s remarks were made in July 2004, the investigation did not begin until October, just when the NAACP was attempting to register voters.

maybe this new investigation can start in mid-2008. Of course, this timing would have to be purely coincidental, because

IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson said the agency’s examinations are based on tax law, not partisanship.

And why wouldn’t we believe him?

  • JC

    It seems like the IRS is almost always used as a “weapon” by the administration and White House to use against their political “enemies”, regardless of who is in the White House.

    During the Clinton years, lots of right-wing organizations were audited by IRS.

    Richard Nixon was famous for using the IRS to harass people he didn’t like. (Nixon even tried used the INS to harass and deport John Lennon for being too “political”).

  • Gideon

    During the Clinton years, lots of right-wing organizations were audited by IRS.

    And the names of those right wing organizations…

  • Jim

    Too many to count. Try Elizabeth Ward Gracen, a former Miss America that had a fling with Clinton. After she came out about the fling, she was audited.

  • JC

    All the usual suspects (and more) were audited during the Clinton years, such as:

    – National Rifle Association
    – Bill O’Reilly
    – organizations associated with Newt Gingrich
    – organizations associated with Pat Buchanan
    – orgnaizations associated with Oliver North
    – National Review
    – Paula Jones

    and numerous other people and organizations.

    (Try googling the keywords: Clinton IRS right wing organizations)

  • agesilaus

    If they start investigating churches they would have to include black churches. The democrats historically have directly paid black pastors with bundles of cash to ‘get out the vote’. This occurs on voting day. They call this walking around money and it is simply vote buying.

  • Gabe Isman

    agesilaus, If that’s vote buying, then paying campaign workers to ‘get out the vote’ would be too. In neither case is anyone payed for their vote. It is equivalent to employing the pastor as a campaign worker. Naturally that’s a little sketchy, but it’s almost certainly not illegal.

  • Louise

    Mark, judging by the comments, you are a minority. Is this any way to get public support for physics? The people want Equations and Data from science.

  • damselfly

    #7 – stop picking on the boy. I’m not a techie, so I just lurk on this blog, but at least this is a topic I understand! Mark is spot on.

  • damselfly

    #7 – by the way, interesting link.

  • Joe

    Louise: For what it’s worth as one of “the people”, I often find the political commentry on physics blogs to make for some of the more interesting posts, sometimes more so than equations and data. If I wanted equations and data, I’d read a journal. It is things like the interpretations that various physics bloggers put on results as well as the chance to read about the outlook of other physicists (i.e. those physics bloggers) on the world that has me reading blogs like this.

    Blogging is a very personal matter. It’s like having a diary that you allow everyone and anyone to read. If I allowed someone else to read my diary (assuming I was actually organised enough to use one) should I really take seriously their demands for different content? It’s seems to me that this is exactly the situation arising here, with some commenters demanding different content.

    It seems completely unreasonable to chastise Mark for blogging about a topic which you are not interested in , or where you disagree with his opinion. Sure, you can say you disagree with him, and the comments section allows you room to argue your reasons why, but to imply that he shouldn’t have blogged about something is akin to saying he shouldn’t have thought about it in the first place.

    Sorry if I came down unreasonably harshly on you, it 4:18am here and I’m a little tired, and your post seemed representative of a number of others I’ve seen on CV recently.

  • Annie

    I agree with Joe, and I’d also like to point out that it’s really sketchy to imply that “only minorities” could agree or come up with the argument presented by Mark here, or that only a person from a minority background would be concerned with the NAACP or its audit.

  • donna

    Huh, JC, I tried that, and didn’t find a single news source supporting your claim. Go figure.

    Must be that darn liberal media or something.

  • Joe Fitzsimons

    Hmm… It seems several people are posting here using the name “Joe”, so I’ll start using my full name to avoid confusion.

  • JC

    Throw in additional keywords like audit or auditing into the google search.

    Most of the stuff appears to be various right-wing sources griping about being audited during the 1990’s. Then again it depends on whether you want to believe any of these stories. I haven’t found any good neutral or left-wing sources for these 1990’s IRS audits of right-wing organizations.

    For the case of Bill O’Reilly, he has claimed on his FoxNews show several times that he has been audited several times by the IRS during the Clinton era. Whether you want to take him at his word, that’s your judgement call. (It does seem a bit odd for somebody bragging about being audited by the IRS several times on national television, unless they’re trying to be a “martyr” for some kind of anti-tax or anti-IRS cause).

    I’m not quite sure of the veracity of this source:
    (I’m a bit skeptical of their references to various articles).

  • Aaron S.

    well first before anyone calls Mark a minority, perhaps they should look at his profile….

    secondly, let’s face it. Our president is not the “brightest star in the galaxy”. He is head strong, overly confident, he has a habit of lying, and he obviously has personel agendas that are acted on without regard to the impact on America.

    Asking G-dubb to promote other-than-oil fuel solutions in America is like asking the Pope to promote Paganism. The Bush family have thier hands so deep in the oil companies pockets that they could give them ankle massages.

    The world doesn’t realize how much it depends on scientific research right now. The only way to move safely beyond the era of oil, is to ge some researchers together and figure out something “NEW”…. ethanol, while safer than oil still has some of the side effectsof oil, and Hydrogen while extremely clean and efficient just isn’t very easy to make, and has a very high maintenance…

    the world needs to get thier heads together, lets all go for cold fusion? who’s with me? ok well maybe not that, but something similar. there are some very good proposals on the table right now… vaciuum energy, for instance, is very real although not much is understood.

    well , thats my thoughts

  • Mark

    Hi Aaron. I agree with what you say about many things. It is worth pointing out though, that vacuum energy is a non-starter – one cannot mine it for energy. There are a number of people claiming that it might be possible, but none are credible, and it doesn’t make sense.

  • Louise

    Mark’s posts are still amusing. My photo would give me a better claim to being a “minority,” for the average albedo of physicists is very high. Earlier comment refers to political views, not ethnicity.


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About Mark Trodden

Mark Trodden holds the Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Endowed Chair in Physics and is co-director of the Center for Particle Cosmology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a theoretical physicist working on particle physics and gravity— in particular on the roles they play in the evolution and structure of the universe. When asked for a short phrase to describe his research area, he says he is a particle cosmologist.


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