Time to tweak the budget

From www.supremecourt.gov
From http://www.supremecourt.gov

What does a Supreme Court decision on marriage have to do with pro-life work? Directly, nothing. Indirectly, though, the Obergefell v. Hodges decision is bound to mean changes in which organizations the IRS deems worthy of the tax status known as 501(c)3. That sort of thing is very much in Caesar’s domain, so to speak. So are property taxes, and while they’re local, I suspect any tax exemption for a charitable organization’s property is linked to the c3 status of the organization.

So what are you going to do about that, if you itemize your deductions on your tax return? Would you still donate to a pro-life ministry even if it didn’t have c3 status? How about if you’re a board member of a church-affiliated pro-life agency, and your church dissents from the Court fiat on marriage? If I were a donor to such agencies – and I have been – I’d want to know what they’re doing to prepare for loss of tax-exempt status.

No scare tactics here. I simply think it’s inevitable that churches holding to one-man-one-woman marriage, and thereby dissenting from the Supreme Court, will have their exemptions yanked over the next few years. Many of those churches operate ministries for support of pregnant and parenting young people, hospice care, respite care, emergency housing, education… the list could go on. Those ministries are invaluable. People rely on them daily.

Sign on the National Mall at 2013 March for Life
Sign on the National Mall at 2013 March for Life

It would be inexcusable for those agencies not to have a plan in place to keep operating in the event of a shift in tax policy. That shift is going to cause a lot a displacement, I’m sure. Are you prepared as a donor? Are you prepared as a board member or employee of a currently tax-exempt human services organization? Are you prepared to act without bitterness but with calm pragmatism?

I’m not an attorney or a tax expert, but if I were running a tax-exempt organization, even a small one, I’d make sure at this point that I had at least one of each on call.

The time to tweak the budgets is now, not at the moment the IRS and local tax assessor come calling. Plan what to give, free of a tax deduction. Plan what to spend, with taxes as a line item. Litigate if you can afford it (abortion advocacy agencies can show you how that’s done), but be prepared in case of a loss. Caesar’s awake and on the prowl.

Maybe Dorothy Day was right. If I understand correctly, she was deeply suspicious of special federal tax status for charitable work, including her own. She reportedly quoted St. Hilary: “The less we ask of Caesar, the less we will have to render to Caesar.”


This week: buffer zone petition in Concord; a gutsy Baltimore Raven; the IRS and the ACA

The Concord Monitor is reporting that a petition will be presented to the Concord City Council seeking a 35-foot “buffer zone” around the Feminist Health Center at the intersection of Main and Thompson Streets. According to the June 2 Monitor article, the petitioners would like to see the 35-foot zone applied to anything that could be categorized as a “reproductive health clinic.” A reliable source has confirmed for me that as the article indicates, no public hearing has been scheduled at this point.

This is the first New Hampshire petition to come to light since the recent announcement by PPNNE’s senior policy director that “conversations” have been underway about buffer zones at PPNNE facilities. The Concord petition, however, does not appear at first glance to be a PPNNE project. According to the Monitor, the petition came as a surprise to the executive director of the Feminist Health Center.

The zone sought by petitioners would be off-limits to “protesters.” The U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 35-foot buffer zone in a Massachusetts case last January. Burlington, Vermont officials have approved a 35-foot zone for PPNNE’s facility there.

I took this photograph at January’s March for Life in Concord while walking on a sidewalk across Thompson Street from the FHC. I did not use a telephoto lens. Close quarters, as you can see.

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Interesting sports news: Pro-life NFL champion, dismayed by the President’s God-bless-PP speech, declines to join his teammates at the White House (Politico) http://politi.co/15FTccn

Finally, when you read your newspaper this week and find yet another story about the IRS and its treatment of conservative groups, ponder how this same IRS is going to be responsible for determining what qualifies as a “religious organization” for purposes of exemptions to the HHS mandate of the “Affordable” Care Act. I squirm to think that I once thought that was a good idea, compared to letting Kathleen Sebelius and HHS handle it. Is impartiality even possible here?