Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Has Higher Education Overstepped Section 501(c)(3)?

An editorial in the NY Sun concerning anti-Semitic rants published as putatitive research by professors of leading research universities ("Harvard, Chicago and the Lobby", March 17-19) and an article in today's Sun that says that David Duke has been praising research about the "Jewish lobby" at Harvard indirectly raises a question that has beome increasingly salient. Universities like Harvard and Chicago receive a tax exemption under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

The 501(c)(3) deduction is available to educational institutions but is not available to organizations that engage in political advocacy. Hence, there is a question as to whether Professors Walt's and Mearsheimr's work amounts to propaganda and so crosses the line of using universities' assets for political purposes.

The question of propaganda's inclusion in section 501(c)(3)'s definition of education has not received significant attention from the IRS in recent years, which is unfortunate because universities have been inceasingly distracted from their tax-exempt educational purposes.

In several cases in the early 1980s, such as National Alliance v. United States, the federal courts vacated the IRS's previous requirement of an organization's offering " a full and fair exposition" the facts as too vague, but the IRS has not taken steps to provide clearer guidance as to how much lobbying and ideology in an educational institution are too much. This is unfortunate as universities have increasingly become little more than crackpot advocacy organizations for the extreme left.

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