There was a piece of last evening’s All Things Considered interview with Archbishop John Nienstedt that didn’t make it to the the final product because of time constraints. Nienstedt answered questions about a DVD being sent to 400,000 Catholics throughout the state in which church leaders cal for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage to be put before Minnesota voters.
The story started on KSTP the other night. The archbishop says when he gave the interview to the station, the subject.
“Throughout the conversation, the word homosexual or same sex or gay was never mentioned.
The station’s Web site has two stories posted. One is a text story, which quotes the archbishop from a previous speech, called “In defense of Marriage and Family.”
A video post several hours later carried two comments from the archbishop, none longer than 10 seconds. None of the facts in the story, however, appear to be in dispute other than the archbishop does not believe the DVD constitutes an “attack” on homosexuals. But that word wasn’t part of the station’s report.
Given that the station interviewed the archbishop after his speech, it would appear the archbishop’s complaint is that the station didn’t tell him that it knew about the DVD.
A transcript of the edited interview with the archbishop has now been posted on the All Things Considered page.
In the wake of the story, some have suggested the church cannot be involved in a debate over a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage because it violates laws about the political activities of non-profits.
It doesn’t appear to.
The rules for non-profits are they can’t work on behalf of a particular candidate. They are free to weigh in on issues.
According to the IRS:
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.
It’s a somewhat finer line, however, when it comes to lobbying:
An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.
Organizations may, however, involve themselves in issues of public policy without the activity being considered as lobbying. For example, organizations 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.
The church says the DVDs are educational.