First Amendment, anyone?

The rules for 501 (c)(3) tax status — which allows the donations of US citizens to a non-profit organization to be tax-deductible — are remarkably lax. According to the IRS,

To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.

There is no requirement that a charity not take political stands, only that it is not ‘substantially’ a lobbying organization and that it does not support or attack specific candidates.

So, for example, the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Students Association, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Council on American-Islamic Relations all can accept tax-deductible contributions. So can the left-wing Americans for Peace Now, Meretz USA, and even the relatively extreme Jewish Voice for Peace.

Incredibly, If Americans Knew, a group dedicated to demonizing the state of Israel is also a proud holder of 501(c)(3) status. And — to my further astonishment — so is Code Pink, whose members get arrested at anti-military demonstrations, support boycott-divestment-sanctions against Israel, invade the homes of people they don’t like, etc.

While the IRS seems to have drawn the line at Free Gaza — the people that organize the ‘flotillas’ to Gaza — they continue to allow a group called “American Educational Trust” which is a 501 (c)(3) to accept contributions and pass them on!

But there is apparently a problem for pro-Israel organizations:

Z STREET, a pro-Israel non-profit corporation, filed a lawsuit in federal court today charging that the IRS violated the organization’s First Amendment rights.  The suit was filed after Z STREET was told by an IRS official that its application for tax-exempt status has been delayed because an IRS policy requires consideration of whether a group’s views on Israel differ from those of the current Administration.

“Not only is it patently un-American but it is also a clear violation of the First Amendment for a government agency to penalize an organization because of its political position on Israel or anything else,” said Z STREET president Lori Lowenthal Marcus, a former First Amendment lawyer.   “This situation is the same as if the government denied a driver’s license to people because they were Republicans or Democrats. It goes against everything for which our country stands.”

Z STREET filed for tax-exempt status in January of this year and, despite having met all of the requirements for grant of this status, the application has been stalled.  An IRS agent told Z STREET’s lawyers that the application was delayed because of a Special Israel Policy that requires greater scrutiny of   organizations which have to do with Israel, in part to determine whether they espouse positions on Israel contrary to those of the current Administration. [From a Z Street press release. My emphasis]

I wonder if Code Pink’s views “differ from those of the current administration?”  Let’s see:

Code Pink demonstrator, San Francisco 2008

Code Pink demonstrator, San Francisco 2008

Even the present administration should be embarrassed by this one!

Even the present administration should be embarrassed by this one!

Your tax dollars at work. Berkeley, 2007.

Your tax dollars at work. Berkeley, 2007.

First amendment, anyone?

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2 Responses to “First Amendment, anyone?”

  1. Grandma says:

    You really did your homework. Good job! When I formed my own non-profit group (to benefit our local firefighters), the rules of not engaging in anything political, were very strict, and I do not recall them having anything to do with who was in office at the time. The rules are the rules.
    If you make over $25,000 in a year, you must file a tax return (in CA). The tax returns are supposed to be available to the public. I suppose most of these groups are based in Delaware, where there is no Corporate tax? Hmmmm. Now you have me thinking.

  2. NormanF says:

    Apparently, its only left-wing and Islamist groups that are allowed to accept charitable donations and still get to exercise their First Amendment freedoms.

    Pro-Israel groups are being held to a different standard.

    And the Obama Administration is defying them, through the IRS, to do something about it.