IRS Asked to Probe Bishop
It had to happen, one supposes.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State has sent a letter to the IRS accusing a Catholic bishop of breaking federal tax law by alluding to Barack Obama’s pro-abortion platform and voting record.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is targeting Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, N.J.
Bishop Serratelli was cited in the IRS letter over remarks he made in a column posted on the diocesan website and published in the weekly diocesan newspaper.
The Oct. 9 column focuses on the issue of the Freedom of Choice Act, which Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama co-sponsored in the U.S. Senate and has promised to sign as his first act as president if elected.
If signed into law, the FOCA bill would mandate the removal of all federal and state restrictions on access to abortion.
In the column, Bishop Serratelli did not name Obama but he did refer to the position of the “present democratic candidate” with respect to the FOCA bill.
Wrote Bishop Serratelli, “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.”
Barry Lynn, president of Americans United, told USA Today that it’s “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.”
Later in the column, the bishop wrote, “Along with 108 members of Congress, the present democratic candidate for President continues his strong support for the Freedom of Choice Act. In a speech before the Planned Parenthood Action Fund last year, he made the promise that the first thing he would do as President would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act. What a choice for a new President!”
The column concluded, “Today we live in a democracy. We choose our leaders who make our laws. Every vote counts. Today, either we choose to respect and protect life, especially the life of the child in the womb of the mother or we sanction the loss of our most basic freedoms. At this point, we are still free to choose!”
In a statement, the Diocese of Paterson rejected Lynn’s contention that Bishop Serratelli had instructed Catholics how to vote in the presidential election.
Said the statement, “The characterization that Bishop Serratelli’s column intervened in the election process is inaccurate. His October 9 column was not directed to the upcoming presidential election, but was rather totally focused on the Freedom of Choice Act and the harm it would do to the nation if it were to be signed into law. It’s absolutely, positively misleading to say that the bishop urged Catholics not to vote for Sen. Obama. All the bishop did was to point out that in a speech before the Planned Parenthood Action Fund last year, Sen. Obama made the promise that the first thing he would do as President would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act.”
The statement concluded, “In addition to his column, the bishop sent a letter on October 14 to all pastors in the diocese to be published in the parish bulletins in which he asked the people to read his column and call or write to their elected representatives about the Freedom of Choice Act. He did not make any statement about voting for or against a candidate.”
— Tom McFeely