This one isn’t just your average sore loser, however, but a member of Congress–Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) who ought to know better than to write threatening stuff like this at Politico:
I expect political hardball on any legislation as important as the health care bill.
I just didn’t expect it from the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Who elected them to Congress?
Gee, did the bishops vote on the bill? I must have missed that.
The role the bishops played in the pushing the Stupak amendment, which unfairly restricts access for low-income women to insurance coverage for abortions, was more than mere advocacy.
They seemed to dictate the finer points of the amendment, and managed to bully members of Congress to vote for added restrictions on a perfectly legal surgical procedure.
Actually, as Rep. Woolsey fully well knows, there are no “added restrictions on a perfectly legal surgical procedure.” There are only restrictions on who pays for it. As for their “dictating” on the amendment, that’s nothing more than what corporate and labor lobbyists do every single day on Capitol Hill, as Rep. Woolsey also know. As for “bullying,” you’ve got to wonder what they did. They can’t give money, so they couldn’t turn off the spigot. They can’t guarantee votes, so that can’t be it. They have no power at all over non-Catholics, can’t even threaten them with excommunication. Maybe they used harsh language.
And this political effort was subsidized by taxpayers, since the Council enjoys tax-exempt status.
Here’s where things start to get ugly. Churches are not “subsidized” by the taxpayers, as I’m sure Rep. Woolsey also knows. The Supreme Court specifically addressed this subject in 1970 when it ruled in Walz v. Tax Commission:
Obviously a direct money subsidy would be a relationship pregnant with involvement and, as with most governmental grant programs, could encompass sustained and detailed administrative relationships for enforcement of statutory or administrative standards, but that is not this case. . . . The government does not transfer part of its revenue to churches but simply abstains from demanding that the church support the state. No one has ever suggested that tax exemption has converted libraries, art galleries or hospitals into arms of the state or employees “on the public payroll.”
Mentioning the tax exemption is a veiled threat that she makes explicit a little later down:
The IRS is less restrictive about church involvement in efforts to influence legislation than it is about involvement in campaigns and elections.
Given the political behavior of USCCB in this case, maybe it shouldn’t be.
What the IRS actually says about efforts to influence legislation by tax exempt non-profits is this:
In general, no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.
Does anyone really think that most of what the USCCB does is legislative lobbying? Anyone who knows anything about the organization would have to say no, unless of course they have a political reason for refusing to acknowledge reality.
Lynn Woolsey is, of course, no common crank. She’s a legislator of some experience, and some clout. It’s a rather shocking spectacle to see one of the people’s representatives threatening a religious denomination because she lost a debate in Congress.