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December 4, 2014 1:52 pm

Israeli Legal Advocacy Group Urges IRS to Strip Presbyterian Church of Non-Profit Status

avatar by Ben Cohen

Graffiti sprayed on the security fence separating Israel from the West Bank calls on the PCUSA to divest from Israel. Photo: Twitter

A prominent Israeli legal advocacy group is urging the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to investigate the Presbyterian Church USA for engaging in what it describes as “a range of prohibited activities under U.S. tax law” that are focused on the vilification of the State of Israel.

Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center,) a group which combats anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activities through legal action, is seeking the revocation of PCUSA’s tax-exempt status.

“It’s high time that the IRS investigated the PCUSA,” Nitsana Darshan- Leitner, Director of the Israel Law Center, told The Algemeiner. “They present themselves as a religious body, but they act as a political organization, working against Israel by, for example, meeting with the terrorists of Hezbollah and promoting the anti-Semitic BDS movement.”

Tension between the PCUSA and Jewish groups has been rising since the church voted at its July 2013 General Assembly to divest approximately $21 million of its shares in Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola on the grounds that these companies conduct business in the Israeli-controlled West Bank.

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In its 38 page complaint to the IRS, Shurat HaDin has provided what it says is documentary and video evidence showing PCUSA delegates meeting with the Lebanese Islamist  group Hezbollah, which is designated as a terrorist organization in the United States. The complaint also highlights the PCUSA “publishing anti-Semitic materials, enacting a racist policy to divest from American companies doing business with Israel, lobbying the U.S. Congress, and distributing political advocacy materials in violation of its tax-exempt status as a religious organization.”

Such actions, Shura HaDin contends, violate the non-profit tax-exempt status granted to the PCUSA by the IRS in 1964. At the time, the group says, the PCUSA presented itself to the IRS as a religious body, “engaging in peaceful relationships with individuals of all faiths and wholly unengaged in political activities.”

Fifty years later, according to Shura HaDin, that original mission has been completely distorted by the church’s continual involvement in anti-Israel activity. “There is no mention of political advocacy, taking positions on the geopolitical dispute between Palestinian Arabs and Israelis, or PCUSA’s political campaign against Zionism,” Shurat HaDin argued in its submission to the IRS. “There is no mention in PCUSA organizing documents that it perceives fulfilling Christ’s work by meeting with and endorsing statements of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization found to be responsible for the death of United States civilians and marines.  In fact, PCUSA has taken numerous, extensive, and costly efforts to engage in political anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic acts.”

“The PCUSA should not enjoy the benefits of charitable status,” Darshan-Leitner said. “If you want to become an advocacy organziation, you have to change your status with the IRS. You can’t be both a church and a political organization, because the IRS treats these types of organization differently.”

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