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1,000,000 Strong to Strip Mormon Church of Tax Exempt Status

Facebook organizing leads to real-world action.
 
 
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During the election, the Mormon Church pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the push to ban same-sex marriage in California -- a campaign that deprived people in a different state [from where the church is based] of a fundamental civil right.

LDS officials initially claimed they donated $2,078 to the Yes on 8 campaign (although direct donations by individual members exceed $20 million). But recent tax filings reveal that the church spent nearly $190,000 to help pass Proposition 8, paying church members to phone bank and travel to California to campaign for the measure.

While officials investigate the odd discrepancy between the church's initial report and its tax filings, independent groups have formed to lobby for a review of the church's tax-exempt status.

"1,000,000 Strong to Strip the Mormon Church of Its Tax Exempt Status" is a Facebook group founded to turn outrage over the church's role in the campaign into action.

"I am of the notion that religious institutions constantly overstep their bounds in regards to how much the written legal parameters allow them to attempt to influence politics," says John Jeb Brenden Whitlock, who founded the group. "The LDS Church was at the time the most obvious target."

While Whitlock believes that stripping the church of its tax-exempt status is an unrealistic goal, the group is nevertheless pushing for "better regulation of how they spend their finances."

To that end, the group encourages its members to write to the IRS requesting an investigation into the LDS Church's finances.

But the page contains one important caveat: it is not meant to serve as a forum for Mormon bashing, e.g. such cleverness as mocking Mormons for practicing polygamy (the church discontinued the practice in 1890).

Instead, the page is meant to serve as a discussion forum and network that helps people to organize around the issue.

Chris Harris, who became a member soon after the group was founded, says: "I think that it's very exciting to join a group like this, as this current civil rights battle has evolved thanks to digital organization, which allows for greater organization. Within days after Prop. 8 was passed, people started up Facebook groups as this one to express their thoughts on the issue and to organize protests on a moment's notice."

 
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