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For week ended August 01, 1999 Posted 7 Aug 1999

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Why Leno questions Mormon role in anti-gay-marriage issue

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Why Leno questions Mormon role in anti-gay-marriage issue

By Mark Leno: Member, Board of Supervisors, San Francisco


Regarding Lawyer's Comments Jeffrey L. Laurence: Attorney at Law

Leno gives a clear statement of his reasons for requesting that the city attorney look at the legality of the LDS Church's letter supporting the Knight initiative, an initiative that would rule out gay marriage under California law). He says that he sought to answer a legal question of whether the LDS Church's actions were enough to make it loose its tax-exempt status under U.S. law. Leno says he recognizes the right of Churches to participate in social debates in the U.S.

"What did raise questions for me was whether a charitable organization such as the Mormon church can ask its members for their money as well as their vote in support of a political campaign. An organization can lose its tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code if it devotes a "substantial part" of its activities to "carrying on propaganda or otherwise attempting to influence legislation." said Leno in a letter to the editor of the San Francisco Examiner.

Leno goes on to say that "allowing churches to use funds which they have gathered by means of tax-exempt donations is tantamount to giving them a tax subsidy to further their religious aims." He says this is unconstitutional.

In an article on July 21st, Mormon-News reported one lawyer's theory about why the LDS Church's actions might be illegal. That lawyer said that by asking for donations, the Church was creating an unregistered "Political Action Committee" and might be violating election laws in that way.

Another Lawyer, Jeffrey Laurence, wrote Mormon-News at that time, disputing this analysis. "Because the initiative in question is a California State initiative, federal PAC Law doesn't apply," says Laurence. Laurence says that this means that the Church's tax exempt status couldn't be threatened on this issue. He also says that he can't imagine that the LDS Church would do anything to endanger its tax-exempt status, "If there was any concern, the Church would have worded the letter differently. The Church has guarded its tax exempt status rather well, and is likely to continue to do so."

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information