South Dakota Churches Must Be Careful on Abortion Vote, IRS Says

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 9, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

South Dakota Churches Must Be Careful on Abortion Vote, IRS Says Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 9, 2006

Pierre, SD ( — The Internal Revenue Service has done more to crack down on political activities by nonprofit groups in the last election cycle and IRS officials are warning churches in South Dakota not to overstep their bounds when it comes to a campaign against a likely November ballot initiative to overturn the state’s abortion ban.

Church groups in South Dakota say they plan to be very involved in the abortion vote.

"I don’t think there’s any mystery about what the church’s position is on abortion, so I’m certain we will be involved," Jerry Klein, chancellor of the Sioux Falls Catholic Diocese, told the Argus Leader newspaper. "How, we haven’t decided."

The decisions will likely be modified based on what church attorneys find can and can’t be done under IRS rules and the newspaper reports that IRS officials plan to be more strict in enforcing its policies.

"While the vast majority of charities and churches do not engage in politicking, an increasing number did take part in prohibited activities in the 2004 election cycle," IRS Commissioner Mark Everson said in a news release. "The rule against political-campaign intervention by charities and churches is long established. We are stepping up our efforts to enforce it."

But Klein says the rules are targeted more towards candidates than issues and he’s confident the Catholic Church’s activities will be legal and appropriate.

"My understanding is that it is more typically partisan candidates they are concerned about and not in terms of issue-type campaigns," he told the Argus Leader.

Several Sioux Falls-area religious leaders told the newspaper they plan to talk about abortion in the months ahead.

"For the most part, it’s not a subject of abortion rights but more a subject of morality and life," Steve Schaible, district superintendent for the 47 Assemblies of God in South Dakota, told the Argus Leader. "It’s hard to avoid the issue of life being from God."

"I hope the churches get involved. It’s a key issue in the gospels," Rev. Steve Hickey of Church of the Gate added. "We ought not to be silent. It’s time for the churches to stand up."