May 17, 2017

CUA Law Professor Roger Colinvaux was quoted in a article published in The Chronicle of Philanthropy entitled "Trump's Effort to Loosen Rule on Politics in Churches Will Matter Little, Say Experts" See below

Trump's Effort to Loosen Rule on Politics in Churches Will Matter Little

The Chronicle of Philanthropy
By: Megan O'Neil
Date: May 5, 2017

Nonprofit leaders and tax-policy experts said a new executive order that calls for the federal government to turn a blind eye to overt political speech by churches and faith leaders will have little material effect on how a 63-year-old law banning such speech is enforced.

That's because it isn't enforced.

"The position in the executive order is actually quite consistent with what the IRS does in terms of enforcement already," said Michael Batts, a Florida nonprofit tax accountant whose clients include many churches and who supports loosening the ban. "The IRS has not attempted to enforce the law with respect to churches" and what is done or said in worship services.

In signing the executive order in the Rose Garden on Thursday, President Trump said, "This executive order directs the IRS not to unfairly target churches and religious organizations for political speech. No one should be censoring sermons or targeting pastors."

But tax experts say there is hardly such an example to point to.

"I don't think, at least to my knowledge, there has been unfair targeting of churches," said Roger Colinvaux, a law professor at Catholic University who specializes in nonprofit tax. "This is an area in which the IRS tends not to want to enforce the law anyway."

. . . .

Mr. Colinvaux of Catholic University said the new order could have been a lot worse.

"Of all of the options that have been on the table about repealing or the tweaking of the Johnson Amendment, I would say this is about the least bad option."

Surveys of nonprofit leaders and the public show that Mr. Colinvaux is in the majority in opposing the law's elimination. Nonprofit associations, including the National Council of Nonprofits, the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, and Independent Sector
issued statements on Thursday saying the order moves nonprofits in the wrong direction.

"For 60 years, this law has played an essential role in maintaining public confidence in, and support for, the charitable community," Independent Sector said in a statement. "It ensures that charities remain a nonpartisan haven, separate from politics, in our civil society."

Tax law already allows nonprofits to advocate on issues related to their missions, even as it prohibits them from engaging in partisan political activity, the nonprofit lobbying group said.

"This is an appropriate distinction, as countless charities work every day to educate public officials on issues relevant to their mission and important to their clients, members, or communities," Independent Sector said. It is an important, often misunderstood distinction that
the new order only further muddles, Independent Sector said.