Sunday, May 15, 2005

UU Tax Exempt Status and Social Security: A Threat in Indiana?

Perhaps Chalicechick was on to something when she was worried about UU churches' tax exempt status.

From Talking Points Memo:
And back on Monday, Rev. Lisa Doege of South Bend's First Unitarian Church was planning to hold a program on the topic of Social Security at the church, which included Notre Dame Professor Teresa Ghilarducci, a pension policy expert who President Clinton appointed to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation's advisory board and Indiana Governor O'Bannon appointed to serve on the Board of Trustees of the State of Indiana Public Employees Pension Board.

But Monday afternoon Doege got a call from State Representative Luke Messer, the executive director of the Indiana Republican party, who warned her that her church's program on Social Security might cost the church its tax-exempt status.

Talking Points Memo is covering in depth the social security privatization issue. This particular post was really intended just to cover one particular congress member who has taken several different positions on the issue.

Jim Wallis from Sojourners had something to say about the morality of Social Security destruction:

The Judeo-Christian faith tradition has much to say about intergenerational commitments. The Old and New Testaments could not testify more clearly that we must "honor thy father and thy mother" -- and care for widows and orphans, the ill and the disabled. And there is no trust more sacred to biblical faith than the injunctions to care not only for our immediate families but also the larger family of all humanity, especially the least, the last, and the lost. In Jesus' words from Matthew 25, "As you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.”

We are commanded to “Honor your father and your mother,” which is linked to our own well-being and security, “so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12) Deuteronomy 5:16 repeats the commandment and adds the motivation “that it may go well with you,” again connecting the generations in a mutual sense of responsibility for one another. Proverbs 23:22 tells us to respect the generation which has gone before: “Listen to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” And Proverbs 28:24 goes further and warns against any economic ill treatment: “Anyone who robs father or mother and says, 'That is no crime,' is partner to a thug.” Ezekiel 22:7 extends the warning to “orphans and widows.” The Christian New Testament picks up the same themes and in Matthew reminds us again to “honor your father and your mother.” Ephesians 6:1-3 says: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ this is the first commandment with a promise, ‘so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’"

The constant theme is that the well-being of our parents and the next generation is spiritually connected to our own. Social Security is a major way in which our society honors the previous generation by representing a civilized nation’s answer to the age-old problem of old-age poverty. This covenant assures the old in our community that growing old should not be a tragedy, and this commitment is strongly interwoven into the fabric of American society. Without Social Security, nearly half of elderly Americans would be in poverty; with it, only 10 percent are. For nearly two-thirds of the elderly, Social Security provides the majority of their income. In addition, over one-third of benefits from Social Security go to non-retirees, increasing opportunity for families facing unpredictable challenges. Social Security helps more low-income children than welfare (TANF), providing support to children who have lost a parent to death or disability. And when a worker becomes disabled or dies, the entire family is protected from poverty by benefits. There are now well over 4.5 million widows and widowers who depend on Social Security.


At 2:08 PM, Blogger Chalicechick said...

For what it's worth, I do think it a bit unfair to proceed from the assumption that destroying social security is the plan.

With proper safegaurds, I can live with privatization and can see some advantages (You want a lockbox, you got one.)

As long as using your investment monies to buy t-bills is an option, and I think it always has been, I don't think the program will make social security less safe for those who just want safety.

My biggest issue is that it makes the government suddenly a very powerful player in the stock market. The system of regulations there will have to be huge.


At 6:20 PM, Blogger Steve Caldwell said...

So ... does this mean that every church who preaches against same-sex marriage equality is also at risk of losing tax exempt status?

Does this mean that every church that preaches against reproductive choice is also at risk of losing tax exempt status?

If so, nearly every Southern Baptist Church and Roman Catholic Church is in deep trouble with the IRS for supporting "Republican positions."

To me, this GOP dirty trick sounds like an attempt to scare the South Bend UUs from holding a presentation that critically examines President Bush's Social Security Reform. It's the tactic of a bully who doesn't want honest debate on the issue and is attempting to shut debate down through threats and fear.

Here's what the IRS web site says about this topic:

"Churches and religious organizations may, however, involve themselves in issues of public policy without the activity being considered as lobbying. For example, churches may conduct educational meetings, prepare and distribute educational materials, or otherwise consider public policy issues in an educational manner without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status."
[Ref IRS Publication 1828, page 8]

So ... an expert from a local university talking on pension reform and Social Security reform sounds very "educational" to most reasonable people.


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