Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Church Classification for Capitol Hill Townhouse Questioned

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post report on a letter (full text) sent yesterday to the Internal Revenue Service by a group of Ohio mainline Protestant clergy. The signers, members of Clergy VOICE, question the tax-exempt status of the C Street Center which owns a town house on Capitol Hill that provides inexpensive lodging and meals for conservative Christian members of Congress. The letter argues that the C Street Center does not qualify as a church under IRS regulations.

Apparently there is a close relationship between the Center and the Fellowship Foundation that sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast. J. Robert Hunter, a member of the Fellowship, said that "there are religious services all the time" at the C Street Center. He added it is also "a safe place where politicians who are tempted by lust would hold each other accountable." The Center has received notoriety because at least four politicians involved in extra-marital affairs have lived at or used the Center-- South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Nevada Senator John Ensign, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, and Mississippi Representative Charles W. "Chip" Pickering, Jr. Last year D.C. tax authorities classified the Center as 66% taxable. [Thanks to Scott Mange and Wall of Separation for the leads.]