The IRS is investigating the United Church of Christ over a speech Barack Obama gave to its national meeting last year after he became a candidate for president. Obama is a member of Trinity United Church of Christ (UCC) in Chicago. AP reports that a spokesman for the denomination says it received notice of the inquiry on Monday.
The IRS says there is reason to believe the speech violated restrictions on political activity for nonprofit groups. The denomination denies any wrongdoing.
UCC officials say they had consulted with lawyers before the Barack Obama’s June 2007 speech and made clear before Obama’s address that he was speaking as a church member, not as a political candidate.
I seem to recall this speech well and do not think it was a partisan political speech. I confess I am suspicious that this would become an issue at this precise moment (February 25) but then I do not know what is in the mind of those who are leading he investigation. I think the truth should finally be judged by what was said by the UCC and what Obama actually did say on that occasion in 2007. The fact that a political figure spoke at church convention is common. It has been done in black churches for decades and it has been done by conservatives in mostly white churches since the 1970s. Reagan made it a point to speak routinely to evangelical conventions such as the NAE.
I, for one, think the IRS rules about speech and nonprofits is muddy at best. I wish we would get some clearer rulings before we go after a candidate right in the middle of a huge campaign.