Wednesday, June 26, 2013
The Huffington Post reports that in a speech to a group of Southern Baptist ministers in Houston on Monday, Mike Huckabee said that churches should consider giving up exempt status. "I think we need to recognize that it may be time to quit worrying so much about the tax code and start thinking more about the truth of the living God, and if it means that we give up tax-exempt status and tax deductions for charitable contributions, I choose freedom more than I choose a deduction that the government gives me permission to say what God wants me to say." Huckabee confirmed his views in a tweet Tuesday evening.
I don't think I've ever uttered the words "I agree with Mike Huckabee," but there's a first time for everything. So here goes: I agree with Mike Huckabee. The primary issue, of course, is the ability of churches to engage in political campaign activity, the same issue at the core of the 501(c)(4) mess. But in the 501(c)(3) category, we have a nice, bright line: political campaign activity is completely banned. Nevertheless, that hasn't kept churches and their ministers (on both the right and the left of the political spectrum, by the way) from blatantly violating the law (for examples, see my prior posts here and here).
My view on the relationship of churches to 501(c)(3) has always been the same: if they want 501(c)(3) status, they need to play by the rules. If they don't want to play by the rules, give up 501(c)(3) status, and engage in politics to their hearts content. They don't get to break the rules and then whine that the government is picking on them, any more than 501(c)(4)'s should get to blatantly break the rules and whine that the government is picking on them. So - quit whining, and suck it up. Make your choice and live with it. Be like Mike (Huckabee).