Saturday, October 11, 2008

New Global Protestant Body to Seek to Overcome Past Separation

According to a report posted on the Presbyterian Outlook, plans to form a new global grouping representing 80 million Reformed Christians worldwide in 2010 took a step forward following discussions at a meeting in the Dutch city of Utrecht that ended yesterday, October 10.

Clifton Kirkpatrick, president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, is quoted as stating that the new group will be the result of a union between his group and the Reformed Ecumenical Council.  The October 6-10 meeting in Utrecht was the first joint session of the governing bodies of the two organizations.

The Utrecht meeting finalized a draft constitution and by-laws for the new organization. The draft texts will be presented to the member churches of both organizations, which will have twelve months in which to comment. Approval of the final draft is scheduled for the new body's inaugural general council in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in June 2010.


October 11, 2008 in Church and State, In the News, International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

New York State Faces Difficulty in Enforcing Disclosure Law

Two years ago, New York State passed a law requiring board members of nonprofit organizations “affiliated with, sponsored by or created by a county, city, town or village government” to begin filing lengthy annual financial disclosure forms.  It appears, however, that several nonprofit organizations in New York City -- organizations the New York State Legislature intended to be covered by the legislation -- are not filing the lengthy forms.  According to a report appearing in today's New York Times, New York City has interpreted the legislation to mean that these nonprofits are not sufficiently affiliated with "a county, city, town or village government." 

According to the Times report, Richard L. Brodsky, chair of the New York State Assembly's Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions (which had a hand in developing the law), yesterday announced that he would hold a hearing on compliance with the law in coming weeks.  Mr. Brodsky maintains that the "king of wiggling around" currently taking place "is not acceptable."  He continued:

If people want to argue that we’ve captured the wrong kind of organizations, we’re going to listen very carefully.  But we’re not going to accept wild gyrations that turn words on their heads.

Meanwhile, Assemblyman James F. Brennan, a Brooklyn Democrat who chairs the chamber’s Committee on Cities, said it was possible that the legislature had erred in giving New York City too much leeway in interpreting the law. “In some instances they appear to have not undertaken to enforce these laws against some people because they have so much discretion,” he said. Maybe, he said, it is time to “go back to the drawing board.”

It looks like an interesting fight is brewing in New York!


October 11, 2008 in In the News, State – Legislative | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Clarion Fund DVD: A Good Case Study on Improper Campaign Intervention (Not involving a house of worship)

How many readers have received in the mail the DVD entitled, "Obsession:  Radical Islam's Attack on the West"?  Since I live in Florida I received a copy. The DVD was produced by a 501(c)(3) called the Clarion Fund.  I threw it away without even watching it because it seemed so obviously like political propoganda.  According to an NPR report, the DVD was distributed by mail and as a free insert to 70 different Sunday papers in 14 battleground states (like Florida) crucial to the presidential election outcome:

It's called Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West. The DVD was made in 2006, before this presidential contest began, and it doesn't even allude to electoral politics. But, filled with dire warnings about Islamic terrorists, it hit doorsteps seven weeks before Election Day. And critics say it fuels the false whisper campaign that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim.  "It's to influence people. Sent out now. Whenever it was made, 2006, it's really to influence people in the election and scare people," Madaline Muir of Montgomer County, Pa. said.  Obsession was produced by the Clarion Fund, a 501(c)(3) charity, which cannot get involved in campaign politics.

Now I wish I had not thrown it out.  I should have saved it for use in my tax exempt class.  The DVD was produced for the 501(c)(3) and distributed by a "Republican campaign consultant whose clients include two anti-Obama groups" according to an NPR Blog entry.  I'm pretty sure there are revenue rulings and the like explaining that the timing and selective distribution of political issue material are to be taken into account in distinguishing between "educational" materials and "campaign intervention" stuff.   On the other hand, the DVD never mentions a candidate by name.  If nothing else, it makes for a nice discussion tool by which to bring life to the improper campaign intervention issue.  The DVD can be ordered for $12 bucks from the Clarion Fund website.


October 8, 2008 in In the News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Southeast/Southwest People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference

The Southeast/Southwest People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference will take place on March 26 - 29, 2009, at Phoenix School of Law in Phoenix, Arizona. The theme of the conference is "At the Intersection of Race, Culture and Class."

Panel and paper submissions due October 15, 2008.  Email proposals to: Prof. Lydie N. Pierre-Louis at or Prof. Wendy Greene at (For the student writing competition, please contact Prof. Donald Tibbs at

Works-in-progress abstracts due December 15, 2008.  Email abstracts to:  Prof. Danielle Holley-Walker at or Prof. Jane Cross at

For more information, you can visit the conference website at


October 8, 2008 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Preaching Politics From Tax-Exempt Pulpits

There was lots of talk last week about the Alliance Defense Fund's Pulpit protest and we posted more than a few items on the topic.  Most of the discussion, ironically, omitted pastors.  NPR engaged a few pastors in an interesting 30 minute discussion of the topic.  I admit that I agree with the minister's legal point even as I find this group's universal endorsement of McCain to be damaging of their credibility.  Still, I am quite sure that the opposite endorsement is occuring just as equally in places of worship with a little more color.


October 7, 2008 in Church and State | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 6, 2008

For now, Palin can't donate tainted gubinatorial re-election campaign contributions

The Washington Post reports that Sarah Palin cannot presently donate $2,000 that an indicted state legislator and spouse contributed to her gubinatorial re-election campaign fund. She intended to donate the money to charities (Crisis Pregnancy Center, Special Olympics Alaska and Abused Women's Aid in Crisis). Alaska election laws prevent donations from active accounts held by lawmakers not running for a state office; Palin has two more years in her first term as governor. This means that Palin can only use the money if the McCain-Palin ticket wins the election and she closes out the account. Otherwise, it will have to wait two years.


October 6, 2008 in In the News | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Virginia county seeks to tax admissions fees to nonprofits

According to an article in the Washington Post, officials in Loudoun County, Virgina are seeking authority from the state legislature to impose a tax of up to 10% on admission fees to nonprofit museums, gardens, concerts, sporting competitions etc.  Local nonprofit organizations naturally oppose the proposal (like Sarah Palin, they don't think it's unpatriotic to oppose paying more taxes), and the proposal received a cool reception from state legislators who represent the county.  "No one clamored to say, 'Yes, I'm going to do it,' but no one was rude or dismissive of it," reported a county official who met with the legislators.  At least two other counties in Virginia already possess such taxing authority but they have not exercised it.


October 6, 2008 in State – Legislative | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Stanley Fish on Tax Exemption for Political Pastoring

In on-line piece for the NYT entitled Politics and the Pulpit (Once Again) (October 5, 2008), Stanley Fish examines the question of whether the prohibition on electioneering by tax-exempt charitable nonprofits, as applied to pulpit speech, preserves or violates the separation of church and state.  Ones answer to the question turns on whether (1) one agrees with Locke's view, articulated in A Letter Concerning Toleration, that (in Fish's words) "religion as a private matter, as a relationship between one’s soul and one’s God, and therefore as a practice exercised in the church or synagogue or mosque rather than in the arena of political action;" or (2)  ones "religious beliefs take a more robust form than Locke’s and require that you labor to bring the world into conformity with God’s word and will..."


October 6, 2008 in Church and State | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)