With respect to the IRS's proposed bright-line test for "candidate-related political activity," the IRS appears to be tone-deaf to the sound of Supreme Court’s instructions as supreme arbiter of constitutional protections. In Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life, 551 U.S. 449 (2007), the Supreme Court specifically rejected the argument that a bright-line test could provide the requisite “compelling government interest” sufficient to satisfy the applicable “strict scrutiny” standard for First Amendment rights of section 501(c)(4) organizations.
As of last week, religious institutions and the clergypersons who serve them have been put on notice: Subject to appeal, a Federal statute that provides an exemption for the housing allowance for clergy members has been held unconstitutional. For now, the holding affects only clergy who receive cash compensation for a housing allowance, not clergy who reside in a parsonage or other accommodations provided for the convenience of the employer.
What does “charity” mean? The IRS defines it broadly as “relief of the poor and distressed or underprivileged; advancement of religion, education, or science, erection of public buildings or monuments or works lessening the burdens of government; promotion of social welfare by organizations designed to accomplish the above purposes or (i) lessen neighborhood tensions; (ii) eliminate prejudice and discrimination; (iii) defend human and civil rights secured by law; or (iv) combat community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.” That covers quite a bit of territory for “charitable