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Obama's church

"Obama's church" Continued...

Issue: "The waiting game," March 22, 2008

The United Church of Christ last month did begin a struggle with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which informed the UCC that the denomination's tax exempt status is under review, and that the agency is examining a speech Obama gave before the UCC's General Synod in June 2007.

UCC president John Thomas told WORLD he had personally invited Obama to speak about the relationship between personal faith and public life long before the senator was a presidential candidate: "We took great care to make sure we stayed within the legal boundaries, and I believe we did." Thomas said that although there was one point in Obama's speech that "I would have wished he'd edited out"-a brief reference to the Obama presidential campaign-"otherwise he spoke about the topic we'd asked him to speak about. Any campaign activity took place outside on public property where we have no control."

A top Washington, D.C., law firm with a team led by former U.S. Solicitor General Seth P. Waxman will represent the UCC during the IRS's unusual investigation of the denomination. "To the extent that this scares other religious bodies away from appropriate conversation and dialogue with political leaders who are members of their communities, I think that's unfortunate," said Thomas. "It has a kind of chilling effect."

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is a reporter for WORLD who covers science, technology, and other topics in the Midwest from his home base in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

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