We reported March 30 that two South Dallas churches were potentially jeopardizing their tax-exempt status by allowing Mayor Tom Leppert to advocate positions regarding the two upcoming propositions on the May 9 ballot. Although an update in the story included quotes from a customer service representative with the Internal Revenue Service, we requested an official answer from the IRS.
Kevin Payton, an IRS agent specializing in tax-exempt organizations, confirms that such activity could put the churches' status at risk.
"It could jeopardize the church's tax-exempt status," he says. "Exempt organizations generally are prohibited to be involved in any type of political activities. If someone comes to speak at the church, other individuals that have the opposing views must be given the opportunity."
Payton says the church isn't required to extend the opportunity, but he stresses that it must accept a request from the opposition and give them an equal opportunity. This means if the anti-hotel group requests to speak to the congregation, it must be given the same amount of time in front of a similar crowd.
If the request is denied, someone could file a complaint against the church. This would trigger an investigation by the IRS, which would make a determination as to whether the situation warranted revoking its tax-exempt status.
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Brooks Love, a consultant for Citizens Against the Taxpayer-Owned Hotel, says Concord Missionary Baptist Church has been contacted regarding an opportunity, but they haven't received confirmation yet. We're awaiting response from Bryan Carter, the senior pastor at Concord.