A church in Pasadena, Calif., says that the Internal Revenue Service has asked it to turn over all the documents and e-mails it created during the 2004 election year containing any references to political candidates.
All Saints Episcopal Church announced the agency's investigation in November 2005, part of a yearlong investigation by the IRS into dozens of nonprofit groups accused of promoting political candidates. The church, which has a liberal history, is one of California's largest, with about 3,500 congregants.
While the IRS doesn't comment on on-going cases, the agency did say in July that it had 100 cases pending on the status of nonprofits -- about 40 of them involving churches.
All Saints Episcopal Church and its rector, the Rev. Ed Bacon, have until Sept. 29 to present the sermons, newsletters and electronic communications. According to published reports, Bacon was planning to speak about the issue during Sunday's services and ask parishioners' advice on whether to comply.
The IRS investigation was triggered by an antiwar sermon delivered by a former rector two days before the 2004 presidential election. The tax code bars nonprofits, including churches, from endorsing or campaigning against candidates in an election.
In July, the IRS warned 15,000 tax-exempt groups across the nation to stay neutral on political matters. IRS officials said then that investigations into charges of improper campaigning would be carried out under a new enforcement program, the Political Activity Compliance Initiative. Under it, the IRS will no longer wait for an annual tax return to be filed or for the tax year to end before investigating allegations of improper campaigning.
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