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Why We Don’t Get Political

We’ve had some inquiries recently about the current presidential election here in the US, and whether we might be willing to publish articles pertaining to it. This is a bit of a minefield for us, so I thought it’d be a good time to explain something that not everyone may be aware of.

In order to make 1P5 a sustainable enterprise, we needed to identify a method of generating revenue. As a publication that gives away content for free, the most obvious (and common) such method was to create a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt educational organization, which is what allows our donors to make tax-deductible contributions to support our work.

Some Catholic publications have a different filing status. CatholicVote, for example — a publication I used to write for — is a “501(c)(4) grassroots lobbying organization with a connected political action committee…” which allows them to endorse candidates or to favor or oppose legislation. CV also has a 501(c)(3) education fund that produces non-partisan content (mostly religious in nature) but stays away from politics.

The IRS is very strict about which organizations are allowed to engage in political speech. Tax-exempt organizations are not allowed to get involved in political campaigning or endorsements of any kind. The rules are as follows:

Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity.  Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.

Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances.  For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not be prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner.

On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.

For this reason we are unable to engage in political speech in the way that some of our readers and contributors would prefer. While this is sometimes frustrating, we’ve learned to deal with it. Since 1P5’s mission has always been about teaching the Catholic faith, sharing news about the Catholic Church, and providing resources to help restore Catholic tradition and rebuild Catholic culture — not politics — the 501(c)(3) structure and its speech restrictions are not serious obstacles to our work.

If you were wondering why we steer clear of these matters, now you know.

16 thoughts on “Why We Don’t Get Political”

  1. When Fr. Michael Pfleger from the pulpit of St. Sabina’s on the South Side of Chicago endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton for the 2008 presidential nomination, was the Archdiocese of Chicago deprived of its tax-exempt status? Of course not, but I wouldn’t expect you, Steve, to take any chances. Keep up your fine blog.

      • Steve,
        As I read this posting and the comments generated from the post, your situation reminded me of an observation made by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his Commencement Address, delivered At Harvard University on June 8, 1978.

        This part of the address is applicable to your situation.

        …. A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today………..

        Here is more…..

        A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today. The Western world has lost its civic courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, in each government, in each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling and intellectual elites, causing an impression of a loss of courage by the entire society. There are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.

        Political and intellectual functionaries exhibit this depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions and in their statements, and even more so in their self-serving rationales as to how realistic, reasonable, and intellectually and even morally justified it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And the decline in courage, at times attaining what could be termed a lack of manhood, is ironically emphasized by occasional outbursts and inflexibility on the part of those same functionaries when dealing with weak governments and with countries that lack support, or with doomed currents which clearly cannot offer resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.

        Must one point out that from ancient times a decline in courage has been considered the first symptom of the end?

        • Confusing prudence and purpose with a decline in courage is an unfortunate mistake.

          This was never intended to be a political site for a reason. As I said, I’ve played that game, and it mostly proved futile. Even if we hadn’t filed for 501 status, I wanted to steer clear. (Spend ten minutes looking at the vitriolic arguments among Catholics on Facebook to see why.)

          The politics of one particular country are also not the appropriate purview of a publication that addresses issues in the Universal Church.

          So while it’s sometimes tempting to grab this bully pulpit and exploit it for political purposes, it would be a misuse, and a betrayal of mission. In that sense, the restriction helps with impulse control.

          I’m not afraid to state my mind on these matters. My views on religion and politics have always been public, and the career repercussions of that choice are not something many people would voluntarily endure. Illegal or not, I’ve flatly been asked about such things in job interviews; this will no longer be a problem, of course, because I’m now outspoken enough to be virtually unemployable.

          That last bit comes back around to why I’ll honor the rules. Not many men support a family by doing work for which they receive no compensation. I’m no different. Every workplace has rules; these are the ones I have to follow.

  2. Agree. My guess is that most of the readers of this site already have their politics lined up with their religion. Besides that politics is not going to save us. We should focus on God and his will for us. And besides all that my biggest concern is the politics within the Catholic Church. On that we can speak without fear of the government–at least so far.

  3. Hah, politics ugh;)

    Anyhow, the culture of death vs. the culture of life; that is each voter’s choice.
    This choice is quite simple and requires common sense.

    I am not republican nor democrate nor independent; my first alligiance is with that yellow & white flag in the right-hand corner of our Holy Sacristy, then it is with that red, white, and blue flag on the left side.

    One canidate will appoint pro-life Supreme Court Justices that will sit for many, many years.
    The other candidate will not.

    One candidate has now grown rightly to a position in which he wants to promote a culture of life.
    We see that by means of his first act as a nominee: Pence, who votes/promotes a culture of life.

    The other candidate chose: Kane, who, along with her, votes/promotes a culture of death, despite what he says is his personal thinking. He should know better (shame on him & her), and we all should know better.

    If we do not vote to protect the most innocence on our blue-planet, then we are propagating the culture of death.
    Shame on us!

    May the Loving Hearts of Jesus & Mary be our Love!


  4. Good for you, Steve. Regardless of IRS harassment, I’ve seen too many religious blogs ruined by expanding their purpose to include politics.

  5. I think that’s excellent. There are actually a number of Catholic blogs that I have stopped reading because they have become very political. My first ones I stopped reading are the ones that say you are going to Hell if you don’t support their candidate.

  6. As a Catholic who supports a Catholic confessional state and the Social Reign of Christ the King, I say good riddance to politics. The whole farce and theater of it. We a got a Church to restore and a society to convert first.

    • It would be better for us to convince Catholics (who should already know, but thanks to terrible bishops and misinterpretations) that it is dogmatic and binding that a Catholic should wish to make Catholicism the majority religion and enact a Catholic confessional state. It’s sad they don’t know. These good Catholics are not heretics, they are simply misled and don’t realize they are not adhering to dogma.

    • You can’t if your bishops are selling out to secular pressures and monies. Half the government is trying to infiltrate and undermine Mother Church. Can’t ignore this fight, not anymore. Were to far behind and the Catholic Spring is on the horizon. AKA the Heretic Spring.

  7. Bravo! Watching the political fawning that’s going on at some other popular non-profit Catholic sites right now is pretty revolting. I don’t mind at all people saying who they are going to vote for, but some have clearly crossed over into active campaigning.


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