As of February 4, IRS Reg-134417-13 ruling received 21,547 comments. The IRS will take comments until February 27, 2014.
Twenty-one thousand comments is a pitiful showing. Evidently most Americans don’t know what this ruling proposes.
The IRS Reg-134417-13 ruling forbids non-profits to hold voter registration drives, advertise, promote and engage in activities regarding any political incumbent or candidate. It forbids political fund-raisers, prohibits any kind of political activity including rallies, political mailings, teas, Meet & Greets, forums and gatherings that deal with political issues. It forbids a non-profit to support or oppose, discuss or question those seeking political office. It forbids the gathering of signatures on petitions with political content of any kind, including nominating petitions and any comment pro or con on House and Senate bills.
By extension, it would be applicable at every level of government and to support or opposition to any kind of legislation whatsoever.
There is little to no difference between a 501c(3) and a 501c(4). Applied to one, you can bet the ruling will soon be applied to the other.
But make no mistake, no matter what your political point of view this ruling is not about non-profits. It’s about the freedom to state and communicate publicly your ideas and preferences — i.e., your values.
This ruling constitutes a danger to far more of us than the membership of non-profits. It is not a simple violation of the First Amendment. It is a proposal to do away with the First Amendment entirely and in effect institutionalize censorship.
No issue is as threatening to freedom as censorship. The muzzling of the electorate is the means of forbidding government participation.
You say, “But the ruling is aimed only at non-profits!” Is it?
Currently, churches are prohibited from discussing politics from the pulpit. Businesses and banks refuse to allow any material on their premises that involves a political issue. Many members of business and military organizations are frightened to speak out on political matters for fear of reprisal. The IRS has already deliberately delayed applications for non-profit status to those organizations that politicians and bureaucrats look upon with a jaundiced eye. Scores of charitable organizations will also be muzzled by this ruling.
Much of our information about political activities and events is word of mouth. What happens when talking about politics is illegal?
The IRS Reg-134417-13 ruling is an unconscionable attack on our right to discuss, agree or disagree about political matters.
If you doubt the scope and fundamental danger of this IRS ruling, consider the following: A government that has the legal authority to forbid what citizens may or may not talk about, is a government that has the legal authority to shackle your mind, which means your ideas. That kind of shackling is a thousand times more paralyzing than chains on your body. It stops thought, ambition, happiness, love, caring.
Sylvia Bokor is an artist and writer. You can read more of her writings on her blog