Gay Marriage Supporters Threaten to Strip Churches of Tax Exemption

More than 75,000 Americans have joined an online movement seeking the revocation of tax-exempt status from churches that were involved in the repeal of Maine's gay marriage law.

"It's no secret that the Catholic Diocese led the 'Yes on 1' effort in Maine, among many other churches encouraging their congregations to vote 'Yes,' handing out signature forms and collection plates during service, and constantly asking for 'sacrificial contributions' from churchgoers," Maine Marriage Equality charges.

"The IRS clearly forbids churches from participating in political campaigns in any form," the group asserts.

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Maine Marriage Equality is urging supporters and gay rights advocates to file an IRS complaint against churches that were a part of the effort in passing the ballot measure, Question One, which rejected the state's same-sex marriage law.

The state law legalizing marriage for gay and lesbian couples was passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. John Baldacci in May.

The law was repealed last week when 53 percent of voters chose to repeal the law.

Maine Marriage Equality has made available a list of churches and organizations that campaigned for Question One as well as a list of major financial contributors.

"If churches are going to try and have a say in the way things work in this country, then they should have to pay their dues like the rest of us," Mitchell David Plumer from Nashville, Tenn., wrote on the Facebook page supporting the revocation of tax-exempt status from churches engaging in political action.

Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, however, reject the claim that churches violated IRS policy.

"Pastors and churches have a right to speak about biblical truths from the pulpit without fear of punishment," said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. "They can encourage their congregations to take a stand for marriage and can directly support legislative issues like Question 1 without running afoul of IRS rules.

"The complaints are designed to threaten the tax-exempt status of the churches, even though such support is almost always allowable by the IRS."

Stanley encourages churches in Maine not to be intimidated by the complaints and says ADF will offer free legal support to churches that do get contacted by the IRS.

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