(Extensions of Remarks - October 03, 2002)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E1744]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                               speech of

                       HON. JANICE D. SCHAKOWSKY

                              of illinois

                    in the house of representatives

                        Tuesday, October 1, 2001

  Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in opposition to H.R. 2357, 
the Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act, and I urge my 
colleagues to vote no on this measure. This bill, which would allow 
houses of worship to participate or intervene in political elections 
and still maintain tax-exempt status, is unnecessary, unwanted, could 
have far-reaching and unintended consequences on the tax code, and goes 
against our constitutional value of the separation of church and state.
  Current law does not hinder a religious leader's right to free 
speech; it simply limits groups from being both a tax-exempt ministry 
and a partisan political entity. Numerous faith-based organizations 
have spoken out against this bill because they feel it would lift 
important safeguards that protect the integrity of both religious 
institutions and the political process. Some of these organizations 
include the Interfaith Alliance Foundation, the National Council of 
Churches, the Congress of National Black Churches, the General Board of 
Church and Society--United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church 
(USA), the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Baptist Joint 
Committee on Public Affairs, and the Central Conference of American 
Rabbis. Many religious leaders feel this bill could create division 
among their members and would compromise their position as religious 
and moral leaders.
  In addition, this bill was not approved by the Ways and Means 
Committee, in part because there are concerns about its unintended 
consequences. Churches receive preferential tax treatment as 501(c)3 
nonprofit organizations and receive very little oversight from the IRS. 
If this bill were to become law, not only could people's tax deductible 
contributions be used for political purposes, but there would be 
significant campaign finance implications. Religious entities would be 
able to undertake substantial amounts of partisan campaign activity, 
including contributing soft and hard money to federal and state races 
and national parties. This bill would effectively create a significant 
new loophole in our campaign finance and tax laws with serious ethical 
and legal implications.
  Finally, this bill stands in stark contrast to our time tested 
constitutional principle of the separation of church and state. 
Religious organizations hold a special place in our tax code because it 
is believed that their work is contributing to the common good of 
society, not a political party or a partisan campaign. This bill seeks 
to remove that special and appropriate place.
  I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on H.R. 2357.