Candidate Handout • Audit Protection Limits • Legionnaire’s at Church: News Roundup
    This week’s headlines that affect churches and church leaders.
    Candidate Handout • Audit Protection Limits • Legionnaire’s at Church: News Roundup

    Chicago Mayoral Candidate Hands Out $200,000 at Church Event. “Mayoral candidate Willie Wilson apparently did not violate election law by handing out more than $200,000 in cash and checks Sunday to people at an event he attended with Gov. Bruce Rauner at a South Side church, according to the state elections board. Wilson campaign spokesman Scott Winslow said the millionaire businessman gave the money to people to help them cover the cost of their property taxes and other expenses as part of his long-standing philanthropic work through the Dr. Willie Wilson Foundation, a registered nonprofit. Wilson gave out the money Sunday at an event at New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church, where he was joined by Rauner. Speaking at an unrelated event in Wheaton on Monday, the re-election-seeking governor said he was at the church with Wilson to speak at the pastor’s request. Rauner said he gave Wilson, a friend of his, $100,000 last year and another $100,000 ‘in the last month or two’ to help struggling families pay their property taxes but did not approve of Wilson handing out cash at the church. ‘I think the idea of handing out cash if you’re a candidate for office is outrageous,’ Rauner said. ‘It should not happen. I learned after the fact and I was pretty upset when I heard it was going on’” (“Rauner blasts Chicago mayoral candidate Willie Wilson’s cash giveaway, state says he didn’t violate campaign rules,” Chicago Tribune).

    There are very specific rules governing politicking in the church. Download Politics and the Church for a guide on how to navigate this intersection in accordance with laws and regulations.

    Church Pastors Not Covered by Church Audit Protection, Rules Court. “The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana recently held in Rowe v. United States that the special rules applicable to church tax inquiries and examinations under Internal Revenue Code 7611 do not apply when the IRS seeks church financial records relating to an investigation into the tax liability not of the church but its pastors. The taxpayers in the case, Dr. Herbert H. Rowe and his wife Dr. Carol G. Rowe, are pastors at the Upperroom Bible Church in New Orleans. According to the court, the Rowes had not filed a federal income tax return from 1996 to 2011 (the last year being the one under investigation for them), although they filed a tax return for 2011 after the investigation began. As part of its investigation, the IRS issued broad summonses for records relating to church bank accounts at two banks. The court concluded that the plain language of section 7611 meant that section did not apply to investigations relating to the tax liability of parties other than the church itself, and cited a number of decisions reaching that conclusion with respect to summons directed at church financial records” (“Court Rules Church Audit Protection Does Not Extend to Church’s Pastors,” Nonprofit Law Prof Blog).

    Attorney Richard Hammar notes that this issue is addressed under “exceptions” in Chapter 12 (p. 654) of the 2018 Church & Clergy Tax Guide.


    Attendees at Ohio Church Contract Legionnaire’s Disease. “The Cuyahoga County Board of Health has confirmed four more cases of Legionnaire’s Disease among those who attended services at a Parma, Ohio, church, bringing the current case count to 11, including one fatal case of the disease. The board of health ‘cast a wide net’ Monday to identify potential cases of legionella, and as a result of the widening of the search, they identified four additional confirmed cases among parishioners at the Saint Columbkille Parish in Parma. Legionnaires disease is a form of bacterial pneumonia. It usually spreads through water droplets in the air in things like water fountains, showers and air conditioners. . . . [T]his disease usually affects smokers, the elderly or people with preexisting conditions—and it can be deadly. One of the Saint Columbkille parishoners [sic] who contracted the disease died earlier this month. She was 93 years old” (“11 cases of Legionnaire's Disease, including 1 fatal, linked to Parma church,” ABC News 5 Cleveland).

    See Medical Emergency Preparation for the best ways to prepare for and respond to serious medical emergencies.

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    Samuel Ogles is associate editor for Church Law & Tax.

    This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is published with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations."

    Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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