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October-29-04

Catholic Group Challenges Tax-Exempt Status of Archdiocese

Catholics for a Free Choice filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on Tuesday challenging the tax-exempt status of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. The group charges that the Archdiocese violated its tax-exempt status by urging Catholics to vote against candidates who support five intrinsic evils, including abortion rights, stem cell research, and same-sex marriage.

According to Catholics for a Free Choice (CFFC), the Archdiocese and the Archbishop patently violated their tax-exempt status by releasing an official Pastoral Letter aimed at Catholic voters, specifically instructing them how to vote in the upcoming election and giving them a step-by-step protocol for choosing a candidate. Archbishop Raymond L. Burke used his column on October 1 in the St. Louis Review, the weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese, to a similar end, laying out the civic responsibility of Catholic voters: We are morally bound in conscience to choose government leaders who will service the common good. The first priority of the common good is the protection of human life. Though abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, and stem cell research are intrinsically evil and can never be justified, according to the Archbishop, war and capital punishment, though rarely justified, are not intrinsically evil.

CFFC also cites the distribution of a voter guide prepared by Catholic Answers, which lists the same five non-negotiable issues, in its IRS complaint. Additionally, [Archbishop Burke] has issued overt directions to Catholics to vote against candidates who support positions opposed by the archdiocese, a clear violation of the restrictions placed on all tax-exempt organizations, said Frances Kissling, president of CFFC. Public money should be used for charitable purposes, not for telling people who to vote for implicitly or explicitly, she told the Associated Press. We think the level of electioneering by Catholic conservative bishops and lay people is unprecedented and really needs to be checked.

Media Resources: CFFC 1026/04; St. Louis Review 10/1/04; Associated Press 10/26/04