Let's hear it for a group of mainline Protestant Ohio ministers who are reporting religious groups they think are bogus to the Internal Revenue Service for abuse of churches' tax-exempt status. It takes a lot of guts to do what, according to today's New York Times, this group did:
A group of ministers has sent a complaint to the Internal Revenue Service saying that a town house on Capitol Hill that provides inexpensive lodging and meals for conservative Christian members of Congress is not a church and should no longer be granted the tax-exempt status afforded a house of worship. The C Street Center, valued at $1.8 million, offers inexpensive lodging and meals for conservative Christian members of Congress. The town house, known as the C Street Center, received a jolt of notoriety last year after Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina said he had sought spiritual counseling there in connection with his affair with an Argentine woman.
According to the Times, the ministers complained that the center is nothing more than a cheap hotel for powerful members of Congress, all of whom seem, by the way, to be faux Christian conservatives seeking so called "spiritual counseling."
Like Sanford, these are not poor men, neither are most of them believably penitential. It seems to be just another church-based sham, to curry favor with powerful politicians and then persuade the members of Congress to transform church morality codes into federal law, from which Congress then exempts its own members. To grant this organization a tax exemption is tantamount to paying off the devil in gold bullion. It's obscene!
The IRS has rules governing tax exemptions for churches. They include holding regular religious services that are open to the public, running a religious school for young people, and having a distinct creed or ecclesiastical structure. And, according to the the Times, the Ohio clergy claim the group that runs the center is so bold as to not even file tax returns for its tax-exempt entity.
It's an affront to every tax-paying American, whether devout Christian, Muslim, Jew, or atheist, that this organization and, unfortunately, other sham religious groups just like it or even much larger, are allowed to operate with a subsidy the rest of us pay for.
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