Monday, December 8, 2008

Rev. Wright and Trinity UCC's Repeated Violations of Tax Law Provision 501(c)(3)

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s return to the headlines today reminds me of how Trinity UCC violated tax law provision Section 501(c)(3) during the Democratic primary.

Section 501(c)(3) grants exemption from the federal income tax to non-profit organizations. Churches automatically acquire 501(c)(3) status upon filing of proper organizational documents.

Organizations with this classification are prohibited from conducting political campaign activities to influence elections to public office.

Yet Rev. Wright actively campaigned from Trinity’s pulpit on behalf of Barack Obama while heaping racist and misogynistic scorn on his leading opponent Hillary Clinton (watch video). After Wright retired, his successor, Rev. Otis Moss III, applauded a similar performance by Father Pfleger who brought the house down at Trinity by preaching even more vicious mockery and scorn against Clinton (watch video).

Both Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary and John McCain in the general election were forbidden by the Obama camp, the DNC, and their media allies to even mention the trash talk from Trinity’s pulpit or to suggest the church had forfeited its tax exempt status by its political activities.

Yesterday, Dec. 7, Rev. Wright returned to Trinity to preach for the first time since his retirement. The Christian Post’s Jennifer Riley reports that Rev. Wright did not steer clear of politics:

“Reflecting on the Christmas season, Wright gave a message in which he cited the story of Mary and the angel Gabriel, who told her she would bear a child to be the son of God. Wright compared Mary’s disbelief to similar doubts by some about the future of Trinity Church after his retirement and the likelihood of electing the first black U.S. president.

“Our legitimate questions tend to be asked from the vantage point of limited horizons,” said Wright. “Mary had a limited horizon. She couldn’t see how it was possible.”

Riley also reported:

“During the Sunday services (three were held), Wright also defended his right as a preacher to critique the government, pointing out that the biblical figure Luke had criticized the Roman government.

‘“Any preacher who dares to point out the simple ugly facts found in every field imaginable is demonized as volatile, controversial, incendiary, inflammatory, anti-American and radical,’ Wright complained.”’

That generality is false, of course. Ministers of both black and white churches avoid breaking the law by not supporting candidates for public office while regularly speaking out on behalf of social justice issues. For example, the congregation where I was a member at the time almost unanimously signed a petition opposing the invasion of Iraq.

I continue to wonder, though, why no one has called Trinity UCC to account for violating tax law provision Section 501(c)(3).

Does anyone out there have the answer?

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