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New US Government Petition re: Cults and Tax Exemptions

    mind blown posted Sat, 28 Apr 2012 05:25:00 GMT(4/28/2012)

    Post 493 of 1542
    Joined 3/29/2010

    This is on the official US Government site.

    Note: Someone was under the impression this was unconstitutional and it wouldn't pass, however, Steven Unthank replyed that tax exempt status (re: USC Title 26 § 501 Tax Exemptions Requirements) is not a constitutional right and can indeed be regulated by the US government through the IRS. Freedom of religion does no mean freedom from tax.

    https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions/!/petition/protect-americans-dangerous-cults-modify-usc-title-26-§-501-tax-exemptions-requirements/ZHpbvHfx

    Hi JeffT, I look forward to you writing a thread about your feelings that the U.S. Consitution protects the rights of freedom of religion and speech for corporations the same as for individuals. Please include links to U.S. Supreme Court Cases and excerpts in your thread to support your opinion. I would also recommend that you read the following U.S. Supreme Court decisions from www.law.cornell.edu , which I would use to substantiate my opinion that the U.S. Constitution protects an individuals' rights of religion and speech from government infringement and not a corporation's rights:

    Peace be with you and everyone, who you love,

    Robert

    @ mind blown, thanks for signing the petition.

    Hi Rebel 8, In the simplist of terms "promote freedom of religion and freedom of speech" means that organizations and their leaders shall not promote or use coercion to coerce their members to coerce other members. When organizations and their leaders write articles or give speeches in public forums that members should and/or must shun or mark other members they are promoting coercion. On the other hand if leaders wish to express their views to 15 or less friends and family socially without using intimidation or their organizational position to influence their friends or family, I would not consider that as a coercive act.

    If you read Steve Hassan's book "Combatting Cult Mind Control", Steve Hassan states that dangerous cults can be religious and non-religious. I wrote the petition to include all organizations, because I wanted to reduce the possibiliity of Constitutional challenges on the grounds that religious groups were being unfairly discriminated against.

    What I wrote is a petition and not a bill (nor a law) therefore it does not have all the legal details that a bill should have. Also, the White House website limited the petition to 800 characters (I believe), so I had to write the petition with as few details as possible but with enough to get the point across.

    Peace be with you and everyone, who you love,

    Robert

    Hi JeffT, Why don't you write a White House petition and let everyone know about it. I know that I probably would sign a well written petition.

    Hi HintOfLime, Does this IRS webpage have what you want: http://www.irs.gov/taxstats/charitablestats/article/0,,id=97176,00.html or do you want to see the individual Form 990 or tax return for an organization?

    Peace be with you and everyone, who you love,

    Robert

    Hi JeffT, Best wishes for getting your novel published. What is your novel about? How will your novel contribute more than writing a petition?

    Peace be with you and everyone, who you love,

    Robert

    M JeffT posted Sat, 28 Apr 2012 06:34:00 GMT(4/28/2012)

    Post 6079 of 6886
    Joined 6/4/2001

    With all due respect to Mr. Unthank I am not sure he's an expert on American constitutional law. The US legal system can't tell you what to say or not say, neither can it tell a church how to regulate itself. And it can't use the tax code to punish speech and thought it doesn't like. In other words (at least in my not so humble opinion) if it wants to deny tax exemptions from one church on the basis of its beliefs, it would have to deny it to all of them. I've walked away from at least two religious organizations when they no longer met my needs. I have yet to figure out how to walk away from the government under similar circumstances. Until I do, I will remain more afraid of a government that can regulate my thought than I am of church that tries to.

    F rebel8 posted Sat, 28 Apr 2012 12:52:00 GMT(4/28/2012)

    Post 8483 of 9637
    Joined 1/13/2005

    The request would seem to apply to all nonprofits, not just cults, since you generally can't have a federal law that only affects certain churches (discrimination).

    So you are asking the IRS to force all nonprofits to "promote freedom of religion and freedom of speech".

    Specifically what are you asking the IRS to force the nonprofits to do?

    designs posted Sat, 28 Apr 2012 12:55:00 GMT(4/28/2012)

    Post 10301 of 17319
    Joined 6/17/2009

    Its seems the only legal avenue is for the government to revoke a non-profit status based on some violation then that entity would be taxed.

    Kojack57 posted Sat, 28 Apr 2012 15:00:00 GMT(4/28/2012)

    Post 146 of 753
    Joined 1/17/2012

    Mindblown: Thanks for the link. Just signed up and joined the petition. If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything.

    Kojack

    ABibleStudent posted Sat, 28 Apr 2012 16:03:00 GMT(4/28/2012)

    Post 695 of 2610
    Joined 8/5/2010

    Thank you , mind blown for writing this thread. BTW if the aforementioned link does not work in IE you can also use this link: http://wh.gov/Er4. I tried using https://wwws.whitehouse.gov/petitions/!/petition/protect-americans-dangerous-cults-modify-usc-title-26-%C2%A7-501-tax-exemptions-requirements/ZHpbvHfx in IE and it would not work until I replaced https://wwws with http://www without the "s"'s.

    If people would like to learn a little more about the US Tax Code and IRS publications, you can read the letter to the Secretary of the Treasury in this thread http://www.jehovahs-witness.net/members/politics/225023/1/URGENT-Please-Sign-White-House-Petition-to-Protect-Americans-from-Dangerous-Cults-Modify-USC-Title-26-c2a7-501-Tax-Exemption-Requirements.

    Congress is empowered to pass laws that do not infringe on individuals' rights of freedom of religion and speech, but that does not mean that Congress cannot prevent individuals from killing, slandering, or deceiving other people.

    The last time I checked organizations are not people, and therefore do not have those same rights. I created this White House petition so that all dangerous cults would not receive tax exemptions and not just the religious ones.

    Steven Unthank may not be an expert on the US Tax Code, but he was very kind to post the link on his Facebook pages when I asked him to. Steven Unthank (and everyone else) is not perfect. He just cares about and loves other people, and is willing to make sacrifises for them.

    Peace be with you and everyone, who you love,

    Robert

    M JeffT posted Sat, 28 Apr 2012 16:52:00 GMT(4/28/2012)

    Post 6081 of 6886
    Joined 6/4/2001

    The last time I checked organizations are not people, and therefore do not have those same rights

    /sigh/

    Actually under US Constitutional law, as interpreted by the current US Supreme Court, they do.

    I think I need to start a thread on how I feel about this. It may turn into another essay before I'm done.

    ABibleStudent posted Sat, 28 Apr 2012 19:31:00 GMT(4/28/2012)

    Post 696 of 2610
    Joined 8/5/2010

    JeffT- Actually under US Constitutional law, as interpreted by the current US Supreme Court, they do.

    I think I need to start a thread on how I feel about this. It may turn into another essay before I'm done.

    M JeffT posted Sat, 28 Apr 2012 22:58:00 GMT(4/28/2012)

    Post 6082 of 6886
    Joined 6/4/2001

    I'm well aware of that court decision. I'm an accountant, and until a few years ago I was closely involved with some of the business operations at a church we attended. The decision you referenced regarded tax treatment of for profit businesses by religious organizations. It boils down to the fact that you can't claim relief from taxes on normal business operations (such as selling books or magazines) under the guise of religious activity. This is why the WTBS went to the donation arrangement, they aren't selling anything, therefore it is a nontaxable event. In other words the decision dealt only with financial matters, not church policy, doctrine or administration. This is clearly within the authority of the government.

    My comment about recent court decisions is based on the Citizen's United Case, which determined that corporations have the same First Amendment rights as people.

    There is a logical fallacy at the heart of what this petition is attempting to do. In the name of religious freedom it would have the government determine what a church can or cannot teach. This is clearly prohibited by the First Amendment protection of the free exercise of religion. My point is not that the government can't remove tax free status from a church, it is that it can't do so based solely on doctrine or administration. It can remove tax exempt status based on economic activity (you can't pretend your business is a charity and the IRS has rules for making the determination). The government could, if it wanted to, remove tax relief from ALL churches, but I suspect it would have to just give up on the idea of tax relief for ANY charity in the process. What it can't do is remove tax relief from religions it doesn't like, or those that don't teach some acceptable set of beliefs.

    And who gets to decide what is a cult?

    I hate to break it to those looking for simple institutional solutions to groups like the Watchtower, but I don't think it can (or should) happen in this country. It will take a lot of heavy lifting, but the way to fight these groups is by shining the light of day into the dark corners. It takes time and hard work but we'll bring people out one at a time.

    ABibleStudent posted Sun, 29 Apr 2012 07:19:00 GMT(4/29/2012)

    Post 697 of 2610
    Joined 8/5/2010

    Hi JeffT, Are you referring to CITIZENS UNITED v . FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION ? If you are referring to that Supreme Court decision than I will be glad to read it more carefully, and I would look forward to writing comments about your opinions when you start a new thread. I will keep my comments short, since I do not want to hijack this thread. BTW have you read the petition at http://wh.gov/Er4 ?

    My cursory read of the aforementioned Supreme Court case makes me feel that you are combining 1st Amendment protection of Freedom of Speech with all the other clauses in the 1st Amenndment, including the Free Excercise clause about religion. Traditionally the Supreme Court narrowly construes the Constitution when it decides cases, so I do not feel that any law resulting from the petition that I wrote would violate any 1st Amendment rights. If 25,000 people did sign this petition, I would be the first person to recommend that any bill should be reviewed by the ACLU, Americans United, Citizens United, and other Constitutional legal experts to confirm that the bill would not violate the Constitution.

    If you read Supreme Court decisions carefully, you will learn that Freedom of Speech and Religious rights can be limited by government. I suggest that you read REYNOLDS v. U.S., 98 U.S. 145 (1878) where a Mormon was not permitted to practice polygamy but was permitted to believe in polygamy. Likewise people are limited in talking about committing crimes or inciting armed revolution against the government.

    USC Title 26 § 501 applies to only non-profit organizations that wish to qualify for tax exempt status. This petition would only add requirements for qualifying for tax exempt status. § 501 already prohibits some non-profit organizations from lobbying activities to maintain their tax exempt status which in some ways limits freedom of speech of those organizations. I would argue that this petition allows individuals to believe in shunning people, but would not permit organizations and their leaders teaching their members to use coercion to coerce their members to shun family and friends.

    Peace be with you and everyone, who you love,

    Robert

    mind blown posted Sun, 29 Apr 2012 11:03:00 GMT(4/29/2012)

    Post 494 of 1542
    Joined 3/29/2010

    I signed for a good cause. By all accounts the WTS is guilty of enslaving it's members.

    What about "Universal" Declaration Of Human Rights: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

    Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

    Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

    Whereas it is essential , if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

    Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

    Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

    Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

    Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

    Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

    Article 1.

    • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

    Article 2.

    • Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

    Article 3.

    • Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

    Article 4.

    • No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

    Article 5.

    • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

    Article 6.

    • Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

    Article 7.

    • All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

    Article 8.

    • Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

    Article 9.

    • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

    Article 10.

    • Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

    Article 11.

    • (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

    • (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

    Article 12.

    • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

    Article 13.

    • (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

    • (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

    Article 14.

    • (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

    • (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

    Article 15.

    • (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.

    • (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

    Article 16.

    • (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

    • (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

    • (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

    Article 17.

    • (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

    • (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

    Article 18.

    • Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief , and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest hisreligion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

    Article 19.

    • Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek , receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

    Article 20.

    • (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

    • (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

    Article 21.

    • (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

    • (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

    • (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

    Article 22.

    • Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

    Article 23.

    • (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

    • (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

    • (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.

    • (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

    Article 24.

    • Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

    Article 25.

    • (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

    • (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

    Article 26.

    • (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

    • (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

    • (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

    Article 27.

    • (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.

    • (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

    Article 28.

    • Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

    Article 29.

    • (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

    • (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

    • (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

    Article 30.

    • Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

    F rebel8 posted Sun, 29 Apr 2012 12:22:00 GMT(4/29/2012)

    Post 8485 of 9637
    Joined 1/13/2005

    You will find little argument from folks here that the wts does not respect human rights and dignity.

    However, you are asking the IRS to force all nonprofits to "promote freedom of religion and freedom of speech".

    Specifically what are you asking the IRS to force the nonprofits to do?

    ABibleStudent posted Sun, 29 Apr 2012 14:31:00 GMT(4/29/2012)

    Post 698 of 2610
    Joined 8/5/2010

    Rebel8 - You will find little argument from folks here that the wts does not respect human rights and dignity.

    However, you are asking the IRS to force all nonprofits to "promote freedom of religion and freedom of speech".

    Specifically what are you asking the IRS to force the nonprofits to do?

    okage posted Sun, 29 Apr 2012 20:38:00 GMT(4/29/2012)

    Post 32 of 324
    Joined 4/9/2012

    I say "tax 'em all, let God sort 'em out." There does not need to be any effort of discrimination based on religion. Remove tax exempt status on ALL churches because in modern times, the ratio of "people who use religion for tax-exempt status to net larger profits" compared to "people who just want to worship and happen to fall into exempt status" must be overwhelmingly staggering. See, for cults, they use "conformity/uniformity at all costs" to force their membership into obedience, not because God says so (he never does), but because all members recognized in the congregation must share the same EXACT views and beliefs of the doctrine of leadership. Otherwise, the cult loses exempt status. In the states, the closest legal definition of religion is "anything that fills the area normally occupied by God." Or something to that wording. It is loosely used because the U.S. refuses to identify religion under grounds of unconstitutional discrimination. However, any business can simply state that the company's mission statement fills the void of godly worship and attempt tax exempt status. This is combatted by the need for a tried doctrine and the worship of that God and doctrine by all acknowledged followers. This is why those who are shunned or disfellowshipped are eventually disregarded as having ever been one of the congregation. Legally, it would mean the cult is using exempt status to provide for members who do not worship the same deity (or the understanding of that deity). How are Davidians their own religion if they are trying to claim Catholics make up their numbers? This becomes a fine line and any religion can abuse it. Tax every church as a business, and like with every business, this tax applies accordingly to the legally identifiable membership. It cannot bankrupt a small church.

    HintOfLime posted Sun, 29 Apr 2012 20:42:00 GMT(4/29/2012)

    Post 1528 of 1634
    Joined 4/24/2009

    Personally, I would just prefer it if non-profit entities (all of them) are required to publically disclose what money comes in and what it is spent on.

    That alone would be a big step forward in allowing the public to make more informed decisions before giving money to a non-profit - both for businesses as well as charities, etc.

    - Lime

    M JeffT posted Sun, 29 Apr 2012 21:38:00 GMT(4/29/2012)

    Post 6083 of 6886
    Joined 6/4/2001

    I'm all in favor of what Hintof Lime said.

    My objection to this petition is not based on constitutionality although I don't think what you're proposing passes a first amendment test. I do not believe that it is in anyone's best interest to authorize the government to intrude into anybody's personal beliefs, which is what this petition is requesting.

    Example: about twenty years ago I was working for a major University here in Washington. A bunch of gay students decided to be outraged that the Christian student group wouldn't let them be members, so they got the student senate to declare that all campus clubs had to admit any student to their membership. Sounds all nice and tolerant, right? The next meeting of the Gay Alliance was promptly taken over by a bunch of Christian zealots who pointed out that the Gays couldn't keep them out of their meeting. The new policy was recinded at the next meeting of the Student senate.

    Do you really want the government, for example, to tell the AFME churches that they have to let the KKK wearing hoods into their meetings? You may think that the lashing out at the WTBS is worth the price. I don't. The government has no business telling a church how to practice its beliefs. It can not pick and choose which groups meet it requirements for acceptable religion.

    As I said, if you want to take tax exempt status away from all them, that's fair because it is based on financial regulation, not religious belief.

    ABibleStudent posted Mon, 30 Apr 2012 01:33:00 GMT(4/30/2012)

    Post 708 of 2610
    Joined 8/5/2010

    JeffT - I'm all in favor of what Hintof Lime said.
    M JeffT posted Mon, 30 Apr 2012 03:25:00 GMT(4/30/2012)

    Post 6084 of 6886
    Joined 6/4/2001

    Hi JeffT, Why don't you write a White House petition and let everyone know about it. I know that I probably would sign a well written petition.

    Because I have better things to do than tilt at wind mills. When the budget is balanced, everyone has a job, our infrastructure is fixed, cancer is cured, war ended etc I might have more energy for this kind of thing. I'm writing a novel, if I get it published that will be my contribution to fighting cults.

    ABibleStudent posted Mon, 30 Apr 2012 05:25:00 GMT(4/30/2012)

    Post 709 of 2610
    Joined 8/5/2010
    JeffT - Because I have better things to do than tilt at wind mills. When the budget is balanced, everyone has a job, our infrastructure is fixed, cancer is cured, war ended etc I might have more energy for this kind of thing. I'm writing a novel, if I get it published that will be my contribution to fighting cults.
    ssn587 posted Mon, 30 Apr 2012 14:54:00 GMT(4/30/2012)

    Post 478 of 556
    Joined 4/27/2009

    I heartily agree with Okage, tax them, tax all churches, why should they get a free ride? Churches use public utilities, roads, etc. tax them all. then it will truly be indiscriminant. another good point is have all churches and nonprofit organizations show what come in and what goes out, and specifically what it goes out for and is used for.

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