In possible defiance of an IRS code, churches are licensing a movie critical of Obama and showing it to their congregants.
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A hit documentary film challenging President Obama will be screened in tax-exempt churches, whether the IRS likes it or not.
2016: Obama's America, which takes a critical look at the president and includes an interview with his half brother in Africa, has already grossed a strong $33.5 million at the box office. Now those behind 2016 are creating a new distribution window, if you will: Licensing the movie to churches at the tail end of its theatrical run and before it hits DVD or VOD.
A handful of churches already have signed on before the filmmakers even started to market the initiative. One of them, the influential mega-church Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, licensed the film for $299 and will show it to an expected 500 congregants Saturday, and Calvary Chapel Downey did likewise for the following Saturday. Neither church responded to an interview request from The Hollywood Reporter.
But will the screenings violate U.S. tax rules?
According the IRS code, 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches, are restricted from electioneering, which includes actively supporting or opposing one presidential candidate over another. But organizations have been known to challenge such boundaries. Conservatives, for example, routinely question whether the self-described "progressive" organization Media Matters for America is deserving of its tax-exempt status.
The law is murky, too, as applied to churches. Pastors are allowed to endorse candidates on a personal level and even lend their names to candidates for use in political ads, as long as the church is left out of the equation. This week, for example, the Rev. Billy Graham met with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and told him that he would do "all I can" to help him win, and Graham had no problem with the campaign dstributing photos of the meeting and speaking to reporters about the de facto endorsement.
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SOURCE: The Hollywood Reporter