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Before pivotal election, WI priest tells church, "do not vote" for Janet Protasiewicz
Rev. Brian Dulli told his congregation not to vote for the liberal candidate Janet Protasiewicz in Tuesday's consequential Supreme Court election
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Tomorrow marks the final day of voting in the most consequential election of the year: the race for the open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Given that the Court has a 3-3 partisan split, if liberal Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge Janet Protasiewicz wins the race, she could help protect abortion rights and end the extreme gerrymandering that has kept Republicans in legislative power for years.
Conservatives naturally want to ensure their unpopular ideas are immune from voters’ wishes, which is why Republicans are hoping Dan Kelly (a former justice on the same court) wins that seat back.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. At the same time, the rules for non-profit organizations are no different than a regular election. They cannot tell people how to vote. And yet, last week, the St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Cottage Grove distributed a newsletter telling members exactly how to cast their ballots.
The bulletin from Rev. Brian Dulli didn’t say either candidate’s name outright, but he made it very clear how everyone needed to vote:
… On one side of this race, one candidate has tried to make this race entirely an effort to legalize abortion in the State of Wisconsin. Abortion is the intentional taking of a human life. It is murder. Our Catholic faith is clear that this is grave sin. It should never be controversial among Catholic to say that you can never intentionally take any action that knowingly will help in the taking of a human life. You cannot publicly support abortion or abortion advocates and remain a Catholic in good standing.
The fact that this is a Supreme Court race does not exempt us from our duty to protect life. This moment requires our duty. It's a mortal sin to render aid to the cause of abortion. That aid includes voting.
As a Catholic, I urge you, for the salvation of your soul; do not vote for her in the Supreme Court race on April 4. I encourage you to study the race carefully and form you conscience correctly in accordance with the truths of the Catholic faith.
Let’s be clear about what this is: Dulli told everyone to vote for Dan Kelly as if their faith depended on it. It’s precisely what the IRS says religious groups cannot do if they want to maintain their non-profit status. Just because many right-wing churches break that rule all the time—without punishment—doesn’t make it okay.
(For what it’s worth, 56% of U.S. Catholics support abortion rights to at least some degree. If the Catholic Church wants to kick them out, it’s their loss.)
Now the Freedom From Religion Foundation is demanding an investigation into the matter.
“The Internal Revenue Code states that to retain their 501(c)(3) status, an organization cannot ‘participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office,’” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to the IRS. “In this instance, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church has breached the responsibilities of its tax-exempt status by openly opposing a candidate for elected office.”
FFRF is calling for the IRS to immediately investigate St. Patrick’s Catholic Church to ensure that it no longer receives 501(c)(3) benefits and that donations made to the church are no longer treated as tax deductible. The public essentially subsidizes the work of 501(c)(3) entities, so if this prohibition is unethically violated, it creates an unfair political advantage. Tax-deductible donations may not be used for political speech or donations.
Will the IRS do anything about it? Probably not, even though they should. Even Rep. Mark Pocan called on the IRS to revoke the church’s tax exemption:
The fact that Dulli only indirectly alluded to Protasiewicz suggests he knew what he was doing was wrong. He’s probably guessing he won’t face any consequences for his statement. It’s the IRS’ job to prove him wrong.
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