Catholic Group to Ask IRS to Revoke Tax-Exempt Status of Florida Church

Melanie Hunter | Deputy Managing Editor, CNS News | Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Catholic Group to Ask IRS to Revoke Tax-Exempt Status of Florida Church

( - A Catholic group plans to ask the Internal Revenue Service to revoke the tax-exempt status of a Miami, Fla., church, where prominent Democrats helped turned the Sunday church service into what the South Florida Sun-Sentinel called a "political rally."

The Catholic League said the bishop of Miami's New Birth Baptist Church, Bishop Victor T. Curry, "welcomed" former Democratic presidential candidate Rev. Al Sharpton and the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe.

"Rev. Sharpton, speaking from the pulpit, added to the politicized atmosphere by shouting, 'We're not people who are going to be beat twice,'" Catholic League President William Donohue said.

"But no one was more partisan than McAuliffe: 'Bush has misled us for four years and will not mislead us for the next four years. Get out to vote and we'll send Bush back to Texas.' Consequently, the Catholic League will not ask the IRS to revoke the tax-exempt status of this church," he added.

"In what Donohue called "an interesting turn of events," former President Bill Clinton spoke Sunday at New York's Riverside Church.

"Politics and political involvement dictated by faith is not the exclusive province of the right wing," Donohue quoted Clinton as saying.

"This is a remarkable statement coming from a leader of the Democratic Party. To be specific, John Kerry has said, 'I can't take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or a Jew or an atheist...' Thus does Kerry want to inoculate his religious views from his political positions?" he asked.

"This is in sharp contrast to Bill Clinton's plea that one's politics should be dictated by one's faith," Donohue added.

Also in contrast, Donohue said, Rev. George Rutler celebrated Mass Sunday in New York, which was "well attended" by Catholics who were in town for the convention.

"In a lengthy sermon, which focused on humility and the poor, Rutler made a passing reference to the controversy over Catholic pro-abortion politicians, saying that 'No one has a right to take Communion,'" Donohue said.

"Yet this was enough for an AP reporter to say that 'church-state separation watchdogs' have said that 'Masses such as the one held Sunday amount to tacit political endorsement,'" he added.

"Neither Clinton nor Rutler violated the IRS rules governing church and state. But McAuliffe crossed the line, hence the need to contact the IRS," Donohue concluded.

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