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Churches warned they might lose their tax exemption.

Ottawa -- In March 2004, Janet Epp Buckingham, legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, and Jennifer Leddy, lawyer and director of COLF (Catholic Organization for Life and Family) for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, were invited to a meeting with the Canadian Revenue Agency. Here they received a warning. They were told that if their churches became involved in "partisan" political activity in the forthcoming election, they might lose their tax-exempt status.

According to the revenue agency, not being partisan means not addressing issues on which the political parties have different views. Dawna Labonte, a media relations officer for the Minister of National Revenue, told LifeSiteNews that the churches would be penalized for coming out strongly on such matters as abortion or same-sex "marriage." Labonte said: "The best thing for a charity to do, especially during ah election, is to stay away from those issues." All moral issues, even poverty and homelessness, seem to be covered by the gag order (August 23).

Gwen Landolt, counsel for REAL Women which does not have charitable status, told LifeSiteNews that the CRA guidelines are a Liberal Party ploy to silence the opposition: "The Liberal Party is using the CRA as their tool to silence opposition to the Liberal agenda on moral issues, whether it's same-sex 'marriage,' or legalization of marijuana." She points out that the United Church, which is a strong supporter of same-sex "marriage" even during the election, was not contacted by the CRA.

Churches all over the world are granted tax-exempt status and give charitable receipts for contributions. However, in Canada the CRA holds the power to strip all charities, including churches, of this privilege. Final determination on such matters is made by the charities directorate, a panel of twelve "experts" on charity law and CRA policy.

How far suggested interpretations of current policy can diverge from common sense is shown already by the advice Janet Epp Buckingham gave to an Evangelical clergyman. She interprets CRA policy as forbidding pastors to tell congregations to vote for pro-life candidates; one pastor called her to say that he wanted to preach a sermon on the Christian responsibility to vote only for pro-life candidates, and said that there was only one pro-life candidate in his riding. She advised him not to preach the sermon; according to her it would amount to partisan political activity.

Jim Hughes, national president of Campaign Life Coalition, rejects this stand. He urges congregations to ignore the policy and continue to proclaim the truth. "Let's not be blackmailed into giving up our faith," he says.

Comment:

It is now known that at least one Catholic bishop recently recommended to priests not to mention what is wrong with same-sex "marriage" in their sermons for fear the tax-exempt status of the Catholic Church might be questioned. That is a direct betrayal of the divine command to preach in season and out of season. It is also ah act of cowardice and a politically unwise one at that. This is a time to fight back, not to cave in to bureaucrats trying to impose their opinions.
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Oct 1, 2004
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