Two Anti-SAFE Act ‘political events’ in less than a week at two Western New York churches, both known to regularly engage in partisan political activity.

That’s what has led to the filing of official complaints regarding the tax-exempt status of East Aurora Wesleyan Church and My Father’s House Church in Elma.

To clarify the murky details– neither of these two noted events, both sponsored and promoted by NYS Assemblyman David DiPietro (R-147), was ever meant to be non-partisan. In fact, Republican mouthpiece Michael Caputo even confirmed the EA Wesleyan SAFE ACT forum as a “DiPietro event,” in a series of tweets.

Further, the EA Wesleyan forum was originally promoted in mailers as an official campaign event sponsored and organized by DiPietro, who is up for re-election this November—aka— a candidate for office.

The mailers were labeled with the same logo DiPietro uses on all his political advertising and clearly described the original purpose of the event as, “Get the Latest on the FIGHT TO REPEAL the SAFE Act!”

Heralding DINO Mickey Kearns as an invited speaker did nothing to make the event non-partisan either, as the registered Democrat Kearns ran as a Republican in his recent election for Erie County Clerk and has publicly stood against the NYS SAFE Act.

After getting wind that people in the community were not pleased with such partisan political activity happening in a place of worship, DiPietro and his minions tried to backpedal…hard!

While DiPietro claims that other such events have been held across New York State, we found that statement to be absolutely false.

The only other events that have occurred over the last two months have said nothing about repealing the SAFE Act. Rather, they were properly labeled as Informational ‘outreach’ meetings in an effort to get people re-certified at the event itself. :

Section 501(c)(3) organizations may take positions on public policy issues, including issues that divide candidates in an election for public office. However, section 501(c)(3) organizations must avoid any issue advocacy that functions as political campaign intervention. Even if a statement does not expressly tell an audience to vote for or against a specific candidate, an organization delivering the statement is at risk of violating the political campaign intervention prohibition if there is any message favoring or opposing a candidate.

All of which brings us to Sheriff Tim Howard’s arrogant speech at Saturdays’ EA Wesleyan forum, in which he directly opposed Gov. Andrew Cuomo (also a candidate for re-election this year). Howard  called out Governor Cuomo at least twice by name, once referring to NYS’s continued review and condemnation of his Erie County jails / holding center being related to,”the governor’s possible worry about soon being locked up in one of them.”

According to the IRS rules:

Even if a statement does not expressly tell an audience to vote for or against a specific candidate, an organization delivering the statement is at risk of violating the political campaign intervention prohibition if there is any message favoring or opposing a candidate

Our final point relative to the tone of this forum. Why was the only person told to leave the building by East Aurora police the only individual to speak out in favor of the SAFE ACT?

Reports indicate that, despite the request for attendees to submit their questions on paper, anti-Cuomo and anti-Safe Act comments were shouted out throughout the forum. However, when one person shouts out in favor of the SAFE act, they are told to “shut up” by members of the crowd and told to leave by EA Police, who were ordered to take such action by DiPietro.

 

Doesn’t sound very non-partisan NOW, does it?

The rest of the crowd basically catcalled against Gov. Cuomo and the Democratic Assembly. Not once did anyone tell them to be silent or ask for quiet in the room.

Today, a call to arms was issued by one of DiPietro’s henchmen calling for a second meeting at My Father’s House Church in Elma.

As you can see by the description of the event below, there is nothing even remotely non-partisan about the event.

In fact, given the tone and vitriol spewed by the organizer, one could conclude that a Democrat, liberal or even a person not affiliated with any political party who might stand in favor of the SAFE act risks physical harm just by trying to attend the event.

The involvement of both of these churches in blatantly partisan events leads to a serious question regarding the continued tax exempt status of both organizations.

Keep in mind that the presentation of public forums or debates is a recognized method of educating the public and providing a forum for candidates is not, in and of itself, prohibited political activity.

The one-sided questions, the political shaming of Governor Cuomo, who is of a different political party affiliation, the blocked participation and ejection of proponents of the SAFE Act are all questionable at best and deserve a closer look at the tax-exempt organizations allowing these events at their venues.

Under the law, tax-exempt organizations described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code are prohibited from participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office. Charities, educational institutions and religious organizations, including churches, are among those that are covered under this code section.

These organizations cannot endorse any candidates, make donations to their campaigns, engage in fundraising, distribute statements, or become involved in any other activities that may be beneficial or detrimental to any particular candidate. Even activities that encourage people to vote for or against a particular candidate on the basis of nonpartisan criteria violate the political campaign prohibition of section 501(c)(3).

A few other points about the EA Wesleyan Forum that need to be  addressed…

  • Who decided which questions submitted in writing by audience members were asked and which were ignored?
  • Was the room rented or given as an in-kind campaign donation?
  • Who paid for the event literature?
  • Was any money raised by DiPietro during this event?
  • Who paid for police/security presence?
  • Were the three uniformed East Aurora Police Officers in attendance reimbursed for their services?
  • Will security be on hand at the My Father’s House Church Forum this Thursday? If so, who will pay for that?

Based on the partisan behavior of both of these churches outlined above, neither should continue to enjoy tax-exempt status until they prove worthy of such reward.

Tax-exempt status for both of these churches should be revoked immediately.

A formal complaint against both of these churches is in the process of being filed with state and federal entities. It should be completed and delivered later this week.

We will keep you posted as to the status of the investigations..

Tax-exempt status for both of these churches should be revoked immediately. In addition to oversight by the IRS, tax-exempt organizations are subject to oversight by State charity regulators and State tax agencies.

A formal complaint against both of these churches is in the process of being filed with state and federal entities. It should be completed and delivered later this week.

We will keep you posted as to the status of the investigations..

 

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