Jul 30, 1998

The Internal Revenue Service should investigate two tax-exempt Kansas anti-abortion groups for partisan politicking, a national church-state watchdog group said today.

In a letter to the IRS, Americans United for Separation of Church and State charged that Kansans for Life and an affiliate organization, Kansans for Life, Kansas City Region, are endorsing candidates for public office in the August primary elections in Kansas.

Federal tax law prohibits tax-exempt nonprofit organizations from endorsing candidates for public office. Groups that violate the rules risk losing their tax exemption.

"Americans United requests that the IRS investigate this matter fully and enforce the provisions of the Code prohibiting this kind of partisan politicking," wrote Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn.

The Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group said Kansans for Life (KSL) posted a list of candidate endorsements from the Kansans for Life Political Action Committee on the KSL's internet homepage (www.kfl.org).

A second section of the KSL homepage featured a letter from KSL political director Tim Golba urging KSL members to elect a "pro-life governor" and telling them "the next few years are going to be very easy for all of us" if Republican David Miller is elected. He encouraged KSL members to focus on races for precinct committee posts in the First Congressional District "in order to control the Republican Party."

Americans United also asked the IRS to investigate a second Kansas organization, Kansans for Life, Kansas City Region.

AU said the group is distributing a newsletter, KFL Update, that also lists candidate endorsements from the Kansans for Life Political Action Committee.

Said Americans United's Lynn, "Under federal law, churches and other tax-exempt groups may not endorse or oppose candidates. These two Kansas anti-abortion groups appear to be doing just that. The IRS has a duty to look into this and take appropriate action."

Lynn said the Kansas groups tried to depict the endorsement lists as advertisements from their political action committee. However, Lynn said the endorsements still run afoul of IRS criteria requiring a clear line of demarcation between partisan politicking and tax-exempt organizations.

Americans United is conducting a national campaign to educate churches and other religiously affiliated non-profit groups about the federal laws governing tax exemption. As part of the project, religious groups that violate the IRS Code rules are reported to the federal tax agency. So far, 14 churches and other organizations have been reported.

In 1992 Americans United asked the IRS to investigate the Church at Pierce Creek, a New York congregation that bought newspaper advertisements opposing then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton. In 1995 the church's tax exemption was revoked by the IRS.