IRS Regulations and…Why Mike Huckabee Above the Other Candidates?

Mike HuckabeeThere was discussion in the comments on my previous blog about whether I am violating IRS regulations by supporting Mike Huckabee.

Since there is misunderstanding on this, let me clarify. (Not just for me, but for countless Christian leaders and pastors in the same position.) I have carefully examined IRS regulations in the past, and this week reviewed them again. A nonprofit 501c3, such as Eternal Perspective Ministries, cannot maintain its tax-exempt status if it, as an organization, endorses a political candidate. A tax-exempt ministry can take a position on moral issues and ballot measures, but not candidates.

However, a leader of a nonprofit organization may publicly express his personal support for any candidate he chooses. He can do this as long as he makes clear it is his personal endorsement, not that of the organization.

The following is directly from the IRS:

The political campaign intervention prohibition is not intended to restrict free expression on political matters by leaders of organizations speaking for themselves, as individuals. Nor are leaders prohibited from speaking about important issues of public policy. However, for their organizations to remain tax exempt under section 501(c)(3), leaders cannot make partisan comments in official organization publications or at official functions of the organization. To avoid potential attribution of their comments outside of organization functions and publications, organization leaders who speak or write in their individual capacity are encouraged to clearly indicate that their comments are personal and not intended to represent the views of the organization.

That’s exactly what I’ve done in the previous two blogs. I’ll "clearly indicate" it again now: my comments about candidates are personal and not intended to represent the views of EPM.

EPM has not and will not donate money or resources to the Huckabee campaign. Nanci and I have offered to donate copies of my book Why Prolife? We agreed that if they want them, we’ll gladly pay the bill ourselves. EPM is not supporting Mike Huckabee. Nanci and I are. EPM pays me minimum wage for forty hours a week, but I work far more, and I can use those extra hours for anything I wish, including writing my blog.

MosesIn this blog, I frequently talk about my family, grandchildren, old friends and even my dog. They are not EPM’s grandchildren. They are not the EPM board’s old friends. And Moses is not EPM’s dog. We pay for his dog food, the ministry doesn’t, and no board member has stepped forward to cover his vet bills. All this reinforces my claim that this is my blog, not EPM’s. This is not, in IRS terms "an official organization publication." EPM has a website. This isn’t it. (Look at my blog address—it doesn't say EPM it says randyalcorn.)

My point here is more to clarify than to defend, because so many leaders seem hesitant to speak out about what they believe. A prevalent misunderstanding of the law is part of that. By becoming a pastor in 1977, and then the director of a ministry in 1990, I never surrendered my first amendment rights. I didn’t check free speech at the door. And though I think generally it's not wise for most pastors to endorse specific candidates, I strongly encourage them and all Christian leaders to speak out on the issue of abortion and urge their people to vote only for prolife candidates, regardless of which they choose.

Now, the time may come when the IRS declares I can no longer speak freely about candidates, moral issues or objectionable interpretations some regard as hate speech (such as saying that abortion or homosexual behavior is wrong), without forfeiting EPM’s tax exempt status. When that happens it will make things simple. I’m confident our board would vote to forgo tax exempt status. If they didn’t, I’d have to resign. Why? Because I belong to Jesus, not to the government or IRS.

As long as EPM can offer our supporters the financial benefit of tax deductable giving, without sacrificing principle, that’s good stewardship. But if doing so would require forfeiting our rights and biblical responsibilities, that’s not a price we’d be willing to pay. Countless things are far more important than tax exemption. America is not God. Government is not God. The IRS is not God. God is God. Jesus has never needed tax exempt status to build his church.

Nevertheless, it has long been my strong preference to take positions on moral issues, not candidates. That’s why I haven’t publicly supported a political candidate for many years, and I completely understand other Christian leaders’ reluctance to do so. Issues won’t betray you, candidates sometimes do. Could Mike Huckabee change his mind, compromise his commitments, or fail morally? Yes, just as I or anyone else could. We should place our faith in God, not men. If Mike Huckabee or his campaign brings dishonor to Christ, I will no longer support them. Likewise, if I dishonored Christ I hope they’d remove my name as a supporter.

babyI see many reasons to believe that Mike Huckabee is a man of character, who will not violate his stated principles. I like his position on most issues, but I admire most his unapologetic stand for unborn children. I consider abortion the defining moral issue of our day, just as treatment of the Jews was the defining moral issue in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. See the Scriptures I shared in the previous blog about the shedding of innocent blood. Huckabee’s defense of the unborn is the main reason I’m willing to do what I normally don’t—endorse a candidate.

Two weeks ago I expressed my support of Mike Huckabee.

Last week I explained why I think Rudy Giuliani would be a terrible choice for the Republican Party.

For the same reason I said I couldn’t vote for Giuliani, I couldn’t vote for the Democratic nominee unless he or she were prolife. It appears none are. But what about other Republican candidates?

Fred ThompsonTo answer the question of which candidates believe what on major issues of interest to Christians, I’ve found no better resource than the Values Voter Summit. I read the entire transcript of the debate portion (it’s distracting that it’s all in caps, so if you know of another version, tell me). I’ve also watched candidates’ presentations on video. Really worth checking out.

National Right to Life announced last week its support for Fred Thompson. Upon hearing this was coming, I wrote the following letter to NRLC, and many others wrote similar letters:

I am the author of ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments and Why ProLife? I have been involved in the prolife movement for twenty-five years. I’ve just received word that the National Right to Life Committee plans to endorse Fred Thompson.

As a long-time supporter, this is very disheartening. Senator Thompson has not only lobbied for pro-choice groups as a lawyer, but just last week told Tim Russert that he would not support a human life constitutional amendment to ban abortion.

Mike Huckabee is the strongest pro-life candidate in the race. If organizations such as yours would get behind him, he would have the financial backing and support he needs to win this race. Huckabee has just surpassed Thompson in polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire and his campaign continues to move forward.

If you decide to endorse Thompson, you will have chosen pragmatism over principle. (Though I believe the choice will prove pragmatically unwise too.) This will be extremely disappointing.

Thank you for considering my concerns.

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s position on abortion and other significant issues has radically flip-flopped. At the Values Voter Presidential debate, this was captured in a question asked by Peter LaBarbera:

Mitt RomneyGovernor Romney, you are running as a pro-life, pro-marriage candidate, but you have a history of being strongly pro-abortion on demand and pro-homosexual. You supported Roe v. Wade and said abortion should be “safe and legal.” In 2002, you opposed a state constitutional amendment that would have stopped homosexual so-called 'marriage' in Massachusetts. You said homosexuals should be allowed in the Boy Scouts of America, and as governor, you officially celebrated 'Gay-Straight Youth Pride Day.' You sat on Marriot's Board of Directors for 10 years while it profited off the sale of hard-core pornographic videos to its guests. Why should voters trust you after you spent so much of your career aggressively promoting anti-life and anti-family positions? I understand a “change of heart,” but a “change of position” on life, marriage, gun control, pornography, and immigration all preceding your run for president?

This question was asked to an empty podium, because Mitt Romney left early, as did Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson and John McCain, presumably to avoid these kinds of questions. (McCain has strengths, but among other things, he is a supporter of embryonic stem cell research, which means using preborn human beings as medical materials.)

Regarding Romney, there is another problem. This is difficult for me to say, and I know it will offend some, but as much as I love my Mormon friends, I am not comfortable voting for a Mormon. I have studied Mormonism in depth, have read its holy books, and met at length with Mormon leaders. I consider Mormonism to be an unbiblical cult based on historical deceptions. It misleads people as to who Christ truly is. Jesus is called a created being, “the spirit brother of Satan.” Mormonism teaches “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may be.” To claim God was once a man and men can become gods is heresy on the grandest scale.

Mormonism is a serious misrepresentation of the Christian faith that has long tried to gain mainstream acceptance as Christian. I’m concerned that this could happen through a Romney presidency. And, honestly, I’m bothered by the idea of a U.S. president being part of a cult. To better understand the differences between Mormonism and the Christian faith, check out this website put together by ex-Mormons.

I know and respect some Christian leaders who support Romney. But months ago if Huckabee had been positioned as he is now, neck and neck with Romney in the polls, I think most of those would have chosen Huckabee instead. I hope they’ll move over to support Huckabee now.

What about Ron Paul? I read or watched every word of his at the Values Voters Summit. I’ll express my opinions concerning him in my next blog, which may (or may not) be my last on the election, for a while.

Mike HuckabeeMike Huckabee said at the Summit: “There are many who will seek our support. But it’s important that people sing from their hearts and don't merely lip synch to our songs. ...Some things are not negotiable, the sanctity of life, the definition of marriage. ...Let us never sacrifice our principles for anybody’s politics—not now, not ever.”

Huckabee also said, “I come today as one not who comes to you, but as one who comes from you. You are my roots.”

That’s one reason I support him. His are long-term commitments, woven into the fabric of who he is, not recent finger-in-the-wind positions adopted to win certain people’s vote, only to abandon them later.

I’ll close with this statement by Mike Huckabee:

The greatest thing that ever happened to me was coming to know Jesus Christ. Because there is no limit and no terms are set and it is a position I’ll hold forever and ever. It doesn’t just influence my life, it shapes it, it defines it and in simple terms in public policy it reminds me, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It gets real simple after that.

Oh, have you seen the new Huckabee ad with Chuck Norris? Check it out. (I like Huckabee’s sense of humor. Chuck’s too.)

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries