Group asks IRS to investigate Catholic bishop against Obama
By Daniel Burke, Religion News Service
WASHINGTON — A church-state watchdog group has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether the Roman Catholic bishop of Paterson, N.J., violated tax laws by denouncing Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.
In a letter sent to the IRS on Wednesday (Oct. 22), Americans United for Separation of Church and State accused Paterson Bishop Arthur Serratelli of illegal partisanship for lambasting Obama’s support of abortion rights.
In a column posted on the Diocese of Paterson’s website and published in its weekly newspaper, Serratelli also compared Obama to King Herod, the biblical monarch who ordered the death of John the Baptist.
The bishop did not refer to Obama by name but only as “the present democratic (sic) candidate.”
Under federal tax law, nonprofit groups — including religious organizations — are prohibited from intervening in campaigns for public office by endorsing or opposing candidates.
Serratelli wrote that Obama has pledged, if elected president, to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, abortion-rights legislation the Catholic Church vehemently opposes.
“If this politician fulfills his promise, not only will many of our freedoms as Americans be taken from us, but the innocent and vulnerable will spill their blood,” Serratelli wrote.
The Rev. Barry Lynn, president of Americans United, said it is “impossible to interpret this passage as anything but a command to vote against ‘the present Democratic candidate’ because of his promise to sign a certain piece of legislation disfavored by the Catholic Church’s hierarchy.”