National Petition Drive Seeks To Strip Westboro Church Of Tax Exempt Status

180px-westboro_baptist_church_in_new_york_by_david_shankboneIt takes a lot to get most of us to give a Tinker’s damn for the homophobic extremists at the Westboro Baptist Church. However, the people may be close of doing just that. Citizens are passing around petitions to have the church declared a hate group and strip it of its tax exempt status. This type of political movement targeting an unpopular vote raises all types of alarms for civil libertarians. Declaring certain groups as “hate groups” by popular demand smacks of majoritarian dominance. It also reaffirms the concerns, which I have written about previously, that hate laws are increasingly being used to stifle free speech. It is equally troubling to find the petition on the White House website.

Almost twenty thousand people have signed the petitions demanding the designation of the Church. The church left a signature message on its machine: “We will not allow you to corrupt the minds of America with your seeks of hatred. We will not allow you to inspire aggression to the social faction which you deem inferior. We will render you obsolete. We will destroy you. We are coming.”

The petition on the White House site states:
“The members of this hate group make a practice of targeting funerals to make their case, routinely inflicting further pain and anguish onto the mourning families of deceased soldiers and, even worse, the victims of tragic crimes. They hold signs thanking God and celebrating the deaths of these people. They wave these signs in the faces of the families.”

Is that the standard for stripping away the status of unpopular groups? Holding up obnoxious signs and celebrating the death of people? There are an array of different groups who protest people who symbolize or represent an opposing view or lifestyle. Westboro is not accused of taking violent action and generally complies with local police instructions on where they can protest. The concern is that by defining an opposing view as “hateful” the majority can now punish unpopular views and individuals as part of a non-discrimination policy. Indeed, such actions in stifling speech are often defended as fostering speech — a free speech version of destroying a village to save it.

Anti-gay organizations have lost their 501(C)(3) status in the past but due to their failure to file correct forms as in the case of Americans for the Truth About Homosexuality (AFTAH).

The stripping of Westboro of tax exempt status would in my view place us on a slippery slope of regulating speech. For that reason, I have previously objected (here and here) to IRS rules that allow the termination of tax exempt status based on discriminatory practices of religious organizations like the Bob Jones University case.

What do you think?

Source:  FOX4

53 thoughts on “National Petition Drive Seeks To Strip Westboro Church Of Tax Exempt Status”

    1. WsaC — thanks for that post — made my day. What a beautiful direct action against these hate-mongers.

  1. Otteray Scribe
    1, December 18, 2012 at 9:08 am
    We are closely related to chimpanzees as a primate species. After seeing one of the WBC protests, chimpanzees are embarrassed.

    none of our cousins can fling feces like homo s.

  2. Jonathan Hughes 1, December 18, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Jesus tells us to do something, and it is this: Love your enemies. To attack them is not loving your enemies. Think for a moment. Would you want someone doing the same to you?
    Don’t be an enemy and you won’t have to worry about it earthlings.

  3. Jesus tells us to do something, and it is this: Love your enemies. To attack them is not loving your enemies. Think for a moment. Would you want someone doing the same to you?

  4. well they said on t.v. that GOD is love. and I will give you what the people need. and not give to the antichrists that refuse to teach you about the oxymoron about why the chosen one prophet would precede JESUS. and HE would know PROPHECY AND KNOW WHICH ONES WERE FALSE.
    which brings…
    sigh, call ah… gee to mined. the first will become last, and the first thing that was SUPPOSED to happen was to help the mentally ill. and to give every thing to GOD that is GODS.
    and Nostradamus comes to mind since the weather man was wrong today about the mix. but…!
    The auxiliary way one arch upon the other
    Of Le Muy deserted except for the brave one and his jennet,
    The writing of the Phoenix Emperor
    Seen by HIM that which by none other is.
    was fulfilled and written in all it’s insane sense of writing last year in AZ.

    which leaves man with the wrong impression when they preach that you must have carnal knowledge of GOD, and the twelve mormon morons want to pick up the PROPHET AT ANY TIME. (for a date I guess)
    so with only a few voting days left for the twirl lee verse get out and vote. because the only thang thet a theo low gee on knows is that day are goin ta die. the seeds have been sown for decades and the rave-ons of satan and the birds of pray are roosting inn duh trees and waiting to pluck out eyes so the blind can never see the light. one of them is how GOD said that all politicians are full of shit down to the local and city levels and fill there mouths with excrement… so happy as a slinky on an elevator. the fill lips commercial about being backed up to the teeth the president would wonder why would GOD come out of the would work after so many years if the president is black and Jesus was born the first time as black.
    I know pooh pee missed that one, and the poop still refuses to send My books to the F.B.I. like I told him. and the pope calls the chosen one satan.
    I have heard that said by theologians that some would think that GOD THE FATHER is the devil. so hoo, hoo, hoo, is lying to hoo.

    and why would any body make a u-n-i-verse? a theologian thinks it is to make you kneel before them to serve their purposes. and how would GOD be powerless against satan, the antichrists? it must have been an awful thought to think that GOD wants every GOD DAMNED PRESIDENT SITTING AT THE UNITED NATIONS to straighten out a few laws on a global level. so who is scared? apparently the presidents, and fear not has no meaning, yet every one of them knows that they will die, and speak against GOD as all their individual religions tell them too.

    I wrote because I care, and know the impossible is difficult to understand. but I have been doing things for years and waiting for you to reelect obama by name, for decades. and the mormon church has an agenda that is for more different than the catholics.

    I think all the type-ohs are the correct ones so the abyss widens.

  5. I do not think they are a church either. Phelps is a trained lawyer, and he uses these ‘protests’ to provoke people into attacking him. He then sues these people, represents himself, and wins some money settlements.

    If this is not the definition of a scam, I do not know what is. That is how his ‘church’ brings in income.

    Not a church. A con and a scam.

  6. In Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority, 297 U.S. 288 (1936), the S.Ct. held that when a constitutional question can be avoided so as to reach a final decision on a statutory or other legal basis, courts are required to do so.

    If IRS finds a valid statutory or other regulatory basis to revoke tax exempt status, that will be the basis of litigation, not the First Amendment.

    For example, “…the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) release[s] a list of … nonprofits that had their tax-exempt status automatically revoked due to failure to file annual returns.” (Automatic Revocation of IRS Tax-Exempt Status for Nonprofits). That is a regular event.

    In other revocation scenarios WBC would be required to exhaust all administrative remedies as follows:

    If an application is referred to EO Technical for issuance of a ruling and an adverse ruling is issued, the organization will be informed of the basis for the conclusion, its right to file a protest within 30 days, and its right to have a conference at Headquarters.
    Administrative Remedies

    In the case of an application under section 501(c)(3), all of the following actions, called administrative remedies, must be completed by your organization before an unfavorable ruling or determination letter from the IRS can be appealed to the courts.

    The filing of a substantially completed application Form 1023 or group exemption request under section 501(c)(3) (described earlier in this chapter) or the filing of a request for a determination of foundation status (see Private Foundations and Public Charities in chapter 3).

    In the case of a late-filed application, requesting relief under Regulations section 301.9100 regarding applications for extensions of time for making an election or application for relief from tax (see Application for Recognition of Exemption in chapter 3).

    The timely submission of all additional information requested to perfect an exemption application or request for determination of private foundation status.

    Exhaustion of all administrative appeals available within the IRS, including protest of an adverse ruling issued by EO Technical in an exemption application.

    The actions just described will not be considered completed until the IRS has had a reasonable time to act upon the appeal or protest, as the case may be.

    An organization will not be considered to have exhausted its administrative remedies before the earlier of:

    The completion of the steps just listed and the sending by certified or registered mail of a notice of final determination, or

    The expiration of the 270-day period in which the IRS has not issued a notice of final determination and the organization has taken, in a timely manner, all reasonable steps to secure a ruling or determination.

    270-day period. The 270-day period will be considered by the IRS to begin on the date a substantially completed Form 1023 or group exemption request is sent to the IRS. See Application Procedures , earlier, for information needed to complete Form 1023.

    If the application does not contain all of the required items, it will not be further processed and may be returned to the applicant for completion. The 270-day period, in this event, will not be considered as starting until the date the application is remailed to the IRS with the requested information, or, if a postmark is not evident, on the date the IRS receives a substantially completed application.

    Appeal to Courts

    If the IRS issues an unfavorable determination letter or ruling to your organization and you have exhausted all the administrative remedies just discussed, your organization can seek judicial remedies.

    For example, if your organization has paid the tax resulting from the adverse determination and met all other statutory prerequisites, it can file suit for a refund in a U.S. District Court or the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Or, if your organization elected not to pay the tax deficiency resulting from the adverse determination and met all other statutory prerequisites, it can file suit for a redetermination of the tax deficiencies in the United States Tax Court. For more information on these types of suits, get Publication 556, Examination of Returns, Appeal Rights, and Claims for Refund.

    (IRS Website). Revocation of tax exempt status is not un-common (Example this year).

    In April the IRS revoked the tax exempt status of Renewal Ministries, Inc. of Spring, Texas, a religious organization.

    To be reinstated, generally, it will have to follow the administrative appeal process prior to litigation in any court.

  7. As a member of the Church of the Ladder Day Dogs I am outraged that the IRS will not give us tax exempt status. They gave the status to the Saturday Dogs but not us. It is discrimination. Much of illiteration is illuminating. Ladder Day of course refers to dogs being created by God on the Eighth Day. Dogs that can climb a ladder tend to bring people up in the world.

  8. While the free speech issue should not be an issue here,no matter how hateful these idiots are, the tax exempt status for alleged churches that are not doing church work should be enforced, as Gene suggested above. It does not matter which political issue or issues they are espousing, but if they preach politics from the pulpit, they should be paying taxes.
    I think you hit upon a great idea. Let’s revoke their Human status because this “family” goes out of their way to abuse military families mourning their lost loved ones.

  9. Slippery slope? I’m surprised and saddened with Mr. Turley’s timidity. While the approach might have been better, the illegal gifts to churches etc. of our tax money is outrageous and discriminates against those who are not believers.

  10. “I don’t understand their purpose in protesting the funerals of children except for publicity.”

    You answered your own question, I suspect.

  11. Much ado about nothing at this point. The petition is nonsense as there is no such legal designation as a hate group. I also don’t see any legal basis for stripping them of their tax status. Thus, it’s basically people expressing their disapproval of an odious group–all perfectly normal and legitimate.

  12. I don’t think the Westboro Baptist Church IS a Church. It is a family cult. Phelps took over the original church, ran off the parishioners and inhabited the church with only his own family for years and years. Eventually his children grew up and married, bringing new “members”…and they all reproduced.

    Frankly, I think any Church that engages in political manipulations should be stripped of tax exempt status. No, wait…I actually don’t believe churches should HAVE tax exempt status at all. Specially since the government is SO prickly about granting that same status to neo-pagan faiths and other unorthodox groups….who usually have virtually no money and little property to tax anyway.

  13. When there is only one unique thingy, the law is not strapped by selective prosecution when it prosecutes the one unique thingy for valid reasons.

    Westboro is one unique thingy.

  14. Worry not about the white house petition site. It’s mostly a place to vent.

    “If a petition meets the signature threshold, it will be reviewed by the Administration and we will issue a response.”

    The secession petitions are kept at this site, and have passed the threshold for Administration response many-fold.

    The response will, of course, be a polite “no.”

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