.- A Washington lawyer has filed a complaint with the IRS against the Missouri Catholic Conference, alleging "illegal political interference" and questioning the conference’s tax-exempt status. However, the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has defended the Conference's actions and says the complaint is an attack on 1st Amendment rights.
The Catholic conference has sent state lawmakers a letter, urging them to reject campaign donations from Supporters of Health Research and Treatment, an organization that promotes embryonic stem-cell research and human cloning.
In his complaint to the IRS, lawyer Marcus Owens says the Catholic group is trying to intimidate candidates with their letters. A spokesman for the conference has denied that the letter makes any threats or violates IRS rules.
Owens’ complaint, “should mobilize all principled civil libertarians to protest its implications for free speech,” said Catholic League president Bill Donohue. Donohue calls the complaint “bogus.”
“Regardless of whether one supports or objects to the intentional killing of human embryos, the immediate issue is a First Amendment matter: All non-profit organizations that speak to public policy issues have a stake in this debate,” Donohue wrote in a statement.
Donohue said the Catholic group’s actions do not violate guidelines set out in the IRS document, Election Year Activities and the Prohibition on Political Campaign Intervention for Section 501 (c) (3) Organizations.
"If the Missouri Catholic Conference were advocating that candidates for public office return monies donated by the Klan, no IRS complaint would have been filed,” continued Donohue. “But because the Catholic group is fighting the fat cats … the censors are out in force.”