Wednesday, February 24, 2010
From the eyebrow raising department: An interesting NPR report today raises the age old question "what is a church?" for purposes of 501(c)(3). Apparently, the sole purpose of the "C Street Center" is to provide housing for Christian Congressmen who "can pray in the living room and walk to work." According to the report:
The three-story, brick townhouse at 133 C Street S.E. sits a half-block from the Cannon House Office Building, roughly three blocks from the Capitol — the home-away-from-home for a regular contingent of fundamentalist Christian members of Congress, who can pray in the living room and walk to work. The C Street Center, which owns the 1880-vintage townhouse, claims status as a church. And as with other religious organizations, the IRS takes the center's word that it is a church. As a result, the center doesn't have to file public tax returns, as most non-profit organizations must do.
All of can recall reading a case or two concerning a family that claims its homestead as a church, its members comprised of mom, dad, sisters and brothers. But I have never seen a case involving [mostly Republican] Congressman claiming what is essentially their residence away from home as a church. A group of ministers, relying on the infamous 15 factor test, has filed a complaint with the IRS asserting that just because you pray in your living room doesn't make your venue a house of worship. You can listen to or read the report on NPR's website.