Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA; Marin and Sonoma counties) suggested that the IRS should revoke the Catholic Church’s tax-exempt status because of their support for the anti-abortion language of the Stupak-Pitts amendment.  It’s not going to happen, and she knows it; this is posturing for the base and for her homies back in CA.   What interests me most, though, is this:

They [the US Council of Catholic Bishops] seemed to dictate the finer points of the amendment, and managed to bully members of Congress to vote for added restrictions on a perfectly legal surgical procedure.  And this political effort was subsidized by taxpayers, since the Council enjoys tax-exempt status.

Subsidized by taxpayers?  Hm.  I think what she means is that they get to keep their own money.  The Congresswoman’s bombastic language notwithstanding, I don’t think the Catholic bishops are going to back down on this one.  I have read that the Catholics own 1/3 of the hospitals in the US, and that the bishops will close them before they permit abortions.  We shall see.

(The Congresswoman has a history of interest in religious matters.  She was one of eight representatives to vote against a symbolic resolution to recognize the importance of Christmas and Christianity.  She did, however, vote to recognize Ramadan and Diwali.)

Anyway, I find that regardless of the specific issue or the merits of the case, threatening language such as this predisposes me against the speaker’s case.   And I would like to think that I am not alone in this response.

5 Responses to “Sigh”

  1. November 25, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    “I have read that the Catholics own 1/3 of the hospitals in the US”

    I cannot find any data but this seems a bit high. I will have to dig deeper.

    “…threatening language such as this predisposes me against the speaker’s case.”

    While, I am not opposed to government funding of abortion, and therefore not a fan of the Stupak-Pitts amendment, I find the threatening language about tax-status to be very harmful to the public discourse. I think it feeds to feeling of this being a holy war of sorts, when it should be a nuts and bolts policy debate about health care. Sigh, indeed.

  2. February 16, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    Her statement shows a surface-level familiarity with some debates that have been going around for years about the place of public charities in the world of politics. (The argument’s kind of lite-math-intensive, but basically, public charities, including churches, get a double subsidy: they don’t pay taxes, but their donors also don’t (necessarily) pay taxes on the amounts donated. On that assumption, there is a colorable argument that there is a certain amount of subsidy related to a public charity’s participation in political discourse. I think, though, that the amount of subsidy is grossly overstated, but I’m putting it together in a long paper that may or may not be of any interest to anybody.)

    Sadly, it shows a huge lack of knowledge on the part of the Congresswoman–who votes on tax bills–about the structure of the tax law, and specifically the requirements of 501(c)(3). Or it shows that she panders to her base.

    Ultimately, whatever the merits (or not) of the amendment, trying to use the tax code to bludgeon others is damaging to one’s credibility and to the law that raises governmental revenue (again, for lots of technical reasons, not the least of which is, in general, when people think others are violating tax laws, they become more likely to violate the law themselves).

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Mormon Archipelago

November 2009
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