Catholic World News

State lawmaker’s staff: Church lobbying on marriage threatens tax exemption

May 12, 2011

After Father John Echert, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul - Minneapolis, asked a state lawmaker to reconsider his opposition to a state marriage amendment, a member of the lawmaker’s staff said that such lobbying threatened the Church’s tax exemption.

Father Echert told Rep. John Kriesel in an e-mail that “I am commencing this week with a parish campaign to promote support for a Marriage Amendment in Minnesota.” An aide to Rep. Kriesel responded:

Mr. Echert, I would like to respectfully remind you that the Internal Revenue Service frowns upon churches and religious organizations devoting time to influencing legislation. Your admission of the commencement of a politically involved "campaign" will probably violate several state and federal tax provisions.

Father Echert took issue with the response, writing in his parish bulletin:

Representative Kriesel stands by this response and stated that he does not care if this exchange is made public in the parish. Folks, God help us if the day has come when the Church cannot speak out on moral issues. If staffer Tyler or Representative Kriesel has a mind to sic the IRS on me or our parishes here in South St. Paul, they better plan to take on the Archdiocese of St Paul, the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the bishops of Minnesota and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, for that matter, for our united opposition to abortion and support for the protection of traditional marriage.

Kriesel’s office later told the Minnesota Independent that the “original email was misinterpreted and we have since come to an understanding. It was never meant to be any manner of threat and no manner of disrespect was intended whatsoever.”

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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Dennis Olden - May. 12, 2011 9:54 PM ET USA

    Why didn't the good Father initiate a prayer campaign? More effective & surely the IRS can't penalize people for praying!

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - May. 12, 2011 6:12 PM ET USA

    The real reason we need some sort of flat tax with a working poor threshhold is that the government controls so much with the IRS. If we say something out of line from the pulpit, it's up to our pastors/bishops to correct us, not some weasly legislator or IRS agent.

  • Posted by: rpp - May. 12, 2011 5:08 PM ET USA

    It is very telling that staffer referred to Father Echert as "Mr." rather than use his title. That was a calculated insult.

  • Posted by: DrJazz - May. 12, 2011 10:49 AM ET USA

    Good for Father Echert for addressing this pointedly. His response is exactly what leaders of the Church should say when threatened in any way with an ending of the Church's tax exemption. I hope that priests and bishops realize that powerful people are gunning for that exemption, and that the signs of the times point toward a possible loss of it in the future, even though it is morally just. They are going to need to defend it and, if necessary, go down swinging.