Internal Revenue Service officials have a low opinion of unexplained charity deductions on income tax returns.

Just how low became apparent last month when the New York district tax commissioner, Harold All, disclosed that his office is using a guideline of $78 for unsubstantiated charity donations, $52 of which is allowed for church donations.

The New York Times reported that one “high corporate official” emerged “ashen-faced” from his interview with the IRS, during which his unsubstantiated $4,500 charity deduction was cut to $78.

Mr. All was also quoted as indicating that a taxpayer who could not get a statement from his pastor vouching for regular church attendance might not be allowed even the $52 deduction.

Reaction to the recently announced policy was mixed. “What an evaluation of God and compassion,” wrote one angry citizen. “I don’t think an agency of my government has any business, even by inference, telling the American people what a ‘guideline’ contribution to church and charity is.”

The “off-the-cuff reaction” of Dr. Edward L. R. Elson, pastor of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D. C., was that “personal experience and the experience of others indicate that the amount allowed is far too low.”

“I’m sure I’d take several hundred dollars on that,” he said.

A letter writer to the Times said. “It appears that the Internal Revenue Service—or at least the North Atlantic area—is trying to discourage any form of contribution other than by check.”

On the other hand, reported the Times, the guideline “may be welcomed by many taxpayers who have listened in silent vexation to tales of major unsubstantiated charity deductions by others.”

(Deductions may be substantiated by receipts, canceled checks, and “other records” such as appraisals on donated property and recorded envelope contributions.)

It was also reported that several ministers who spoke up after the announcement said they believed the $52 limit to be fair.IRS officials indicated that most contributions of people who give systematically would be deductible anyway, since charitable organizations make it “the usual practice to issue receipts for donations.… In short, substantial contributions in cash for which no receipt is given are the exception rather than the rule.”

Out of the controversy emerged these facts, confirmed in a telephone interview with IRS headquarters in Washington:

—The “new” policy is not really new; it was initiated without publicity last year in the New York tax district.

—The guideline applies only if the return is examined.

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—It applies only to certain areas (the IRS reported that it does not have records on which areas these are; each district office is given latitude to develop policies that fit its locality).

—Generally the ceiling on charity deductions—30 per cent of the taxpayer’s income, no matter how much proof he has—still applies.

After ten days of varying press reports, the IRS issued a guide to the guideline that said in part: “What the [New York] guideline actually means … is that when a return is audited and the taxpayer cannot furnish documentary support of his claimed deduction for contributions, the auditor is authorized to allow a deduction for contributions up to $78 on a joint return of husband and wife provided that the taxpayer’s oral statements are credible. This is neither an automatic allowance nor a rigid limit. If, in the auditor’s judgement, the taxpayer’s oral statement does not support a deduction of $78, a lesser amount will be recommended. If, on the other hand, the auditor concludes that more than $78 should be allowed, a larger deduction can be recommended for approval.”

An IRS spokesman indicated that cash giving by vacation visitors would not present churches with additional bookkeeping burdens under the recently disclosed guidelines. He also expressed a vote of confidence that may or may not warm the heart of churchgoers everywhere.

“We believe that most taxpayers are basically honest,” said the spokesman, “and if he has been in the habit of giving regularly so much to his church back home, we would not burden him, the pastor of the host church or its board of trustees with this kind of record keeping.”

Time, Labor, And Old Clothes

When a Roman Catholic church in Ontario burned down some time ago, parishioners sought to restore the loss by helping to rebuild the church and running bingo games. The church gave them receipts for their services, and the parishioners used them to make deductions on their income tax returns.

The Canadian Revenue Department at first rejected the receipts. It cited a 1962 ruling that outlaws as deductions the following categories of donations: Those going to charitable organizations outside Canada and to individuals; those listing value of services rendered; value of merchandise where its costs have been charged as a business expense; old clothes, furniture, etc.; amounts paid at card parties, bingo games, and lotteries, even if they are held for a church or charity.

Later, however, the Revenue Minister, E. J. Benson, reportedly told the Member of Parliament who represents the area where the parishioners live that the department would accept the receipts. The amounts involved were small, and the department ultimately did accept them.

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Evidently someone in the church acted to meet the department halfway, for a revenue investigator was reportedly assured that such receipts would never again be issued by the church for donations of time and labor.

The department said that it is determined to stick to its 1962 ruling.

A U. S. Internal Revenue spokesman said that United States laws are similar to the Canadian riding. But the IRS will accept deductions for property donations to charity, including old clothes, “to the extent of their fair market value,” he said.

Is Anybody Listening?

Are resolutions of church assemblies influential in Congress?

Marie H. Walling of the Register-Leader of the Unitarian Universalist Association went to Washington to seek the answer.

Senator Harrison A. Williams, Jr., a Democrat from New Jersey, and Congressman Thomas C. Curtis, a Republican from Missouri, stated flatly that resolutions of religious groups have little effect on them.

“Unless they can come up with some new argument I haven’t heard,” Curtis was quoted as saying, “I think I am probably better informed than the populace on most issues, and therefore better able to make a judgment.”

Miss Walling observed that “it would appear from similar opinions of other Congressmen that general resolutions are not tremendously effective in influencing the thinking of United States legislators.” She added, however, that they are “definitely” effective in other ways.

Williams told Miss Walling that “resolutions from ‘on high’ don’t mean much to legislators. They may not be truly reflective of what people are thinking, but only the position of the organization.”

However, when a resolution supports the Senator, it may mean a lot. “If I can roll out the support of church groups for my position,” added Williams, “both in committee and on the floor of the Senate, I find it the sharpest arrow in my quiver.”

From Dallas To Washington

President Johnson named a prominent Southern Baptist clergyman to the five-member Equal Opportunity Commission created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Dr. Luther Holcomb, executive director of the Greater Dallas Council of Churches, has been chairman of the Texas Advisory Council to the U. S. Civil Rights Commission for the last three years. Holcomb, 53, is a native of Yazoo City, Mississippi, and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He prepared for the ministry at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville.

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The new commission will supervise administration of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which makes it an unlawful practice for any employer, employment agency, or labor union to engage in discriminatory practices because of race, religion, or national origin.

The commission, to be headed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., will investigate complaints and “attempt by conference, conciliation, and persuasion to eliminate any unlawful practices and, where voluntary compliance is unobtainable, to certify the fact to the Attorney General for institution of legal action.”

Turkey And The Patriarchate

As Roman Catholics claim that Peter established the bishopric of Rome, the Greek Orthodox take his brother Andrew as founder of their church. Colorful as has been the history of the latter, it has never been long free of trials. Even today trouble dogs its representative in Istanbul, where ever since 1453 the patriarchate has existed under the aegis of a government that is not Christian and does not regard with any friendly eye a system that allegedly combines Christian tenets with Greek nationalism.

Until 1922, when the Greek armies were defeated at Smyrna, the Ecumenical Patriarchate had under its jurisdiction at least three million Greeks scattered throughout Asia Minor and Thrace (i.e., Turkey in Europe). When the Greeks finally left Asia Minor, however, the number decreased sharply to 250,000, confined to Istanbul and two Aegean islands. The drain continued through successive decades, and by this year only 35,000 of them remained.

Engaged chiefly in commercial pursuits, these Greeks were rarely discriminated against until 1954. When the Cyprus trouble flared up, they were regarded somehow as guilty by association. The illogic in the Turkish lumping together of all Greeks is seen in a traditional distinction made by the Turks themselves. They call Greece Yunanistan, and the Greeks in Greece Yunan (from Ionian), but Greeks in Istanbul, Cyprus, or elsewhere they designate Rum—i.e., descendants of the Roman Empire that was smashed in 1453. This is a significant point, for the Turks thus look upon the patriarchate as linked with a long-vanquished foe.

During the first Cyprus crisis, violent retaliation on September 6, 1955, against the Greeks in Istanbul and other Turkish cities caused to Greek property an amount of damage probably equivalent to the total wealth of Cyprus. Thousands of Greeks left Turkey after this. International arbitration brought some years of peace until the notorious Greek atrocities against Turkish Cypriot women and children in a Nicosia suburb at Christmas, 1963.

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Thereafter in Turkey the authorities expelled a substantial number of Greek residents, some at forty-eight hours’ notice. Similar treatment was meted out to two bishops of the Holy Synod who, unlike the other deportees, had Turkish citizenship. This was taken away. Greece would not accept these two, who are now in the United States. All this was done supposedly for reasons of security, and the Turks denied that events in Cyprus had influenced them. Thousands of Turkish-citizen Greeks were meanwhile leaving the country voluntarily for Greece. The Turks showed no change of heart when the patriarchate as a gesture made some donations toward a fund for Turkish Cypriot refugees made homeless by Greek action in Cyprus. (CHRISTIANITY TODAYS reporter last month visited a refugee camp there in which nearly 3,000 people are crowded together, most of them in tents supplied by the British Army.)

The Plaza Report on Cyprus this year sorely disappointed the Turks, and they rejected the Ecuadorian diplomat as U. N. mediator. Thereafter the situation rapidly deteriorated. The Turkish press began to insinuate that the Istanbul patriarchate was an agency of Greek nationalism rather than a religious center, and called for official re-evaluation of its position. Despite initial protests, the Patriarch Athenagoras permitted and even actively helped government officials to examine his books. Their findings have not yet been made known.

While the Turkish authorities still tend to deny it, the Turkish press leaves readers in no doubt that the destiny of the patriarchate and the remaining Greek element in Turkey is closely bound up with developments in Cyprus, where some 26,000 Turks are said to have been dislodged from their homes. The Istanbul daily Aksam of April 19 introduced a new note when in a front-page editorial it suggested that the patriarchate was supported with American dollars and serves the Orthodox in the United States rather than those of Greece. It predicted that expulsion of the patriarchate would mean the withdrawal of American aid to Turkey and, moreover, that “a dreadful propaganda against us will start in the Western world.” The whole thing, it continued would be worked up as a Christian-Muslim issue. That point was taken up also by the Turkish Prime Minister, Suat Urgüplü, who said that the days of the Crusades were long past, and that to bring up old religious conflicts now that Europe and the world were trying their best to unite rather than divide was a grievous error.

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Included in the patriarchate’s jurisdiction are four bishoprics within Turkey, fifty-two schools in Istanbul, and the Greek Orthodox theological college on the island of Chalki.


The Cuenco Bill

A church-state controversy is lending drama to the quadricentennial of the “Christianization of the Philippines.”

The Philippine House of Representatives approved overwhelmingly a bill that would authorize religious instruction in the public schools. A Senate committee then began discussing the constitutionality of the measure.

Among those who voted for the bill in the House were the three Muslim representatives; the others were Roman Catholics. The only two Protestant members of the House voted against it.

Proponents argue that religious instruction would be an effective way to tackle “the alarming problem of criminality and juvenile delinquency” in the Philippines. The sponsor of the bill, Representative Miguel Cuenco, said that the teaching of religion to “school children in their formative … years should be strengthened.”

Critics of the bill say it would tend to undermine the Constitutional provision for separation of church and state. The opposition includes the Religious Liberty Association of the Philippines, composed of local and national civic leaders who have pledged to defend the country’s religious liberty above their individual religious sympathies.

The principal argument of this group is a clause in the Constitution reading:

“No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use of any sect, church, denomination, sectarian institution, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary as such, except when such priest, preacher, minister, or dignitary is assigned to the armed forces or to any penal institution, orphanage, or leprosarium.”

Below the constitutional level, the rules and directives seem to conflict. A section of the “Revised Administrative Code” enjoins public school teachers from teaching religion or conducting religious exercises. But in 1955, after the death of former president Manuel L. Quezon, who was a defender of church-state separation, a “Department Order” was issued making religious instruction part of the school curriculum in public schools. Some critics of the present bill view it as a move to buttress the Department Order, issued after systematic prodding by the Catholic hierarchy.

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In the Senate hearings, Dr. Enrique Sobrepeña, executive secretary of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, eloquently described the advantage the bill would give to the religion whose leaders could recruit the largest number of public school teachers. Catholics totaled 83.8 of the total population in the 1960 census.

The Cucnco bill provides that “public school teachers may voluntarily teach religion upon being designated in writing as a teacher of religion by priest or minister in the school building …, and the teaching hours of religion of such public school teachers shall not be deducted from their normal regular teaching load. However, no pupil shall be required by a public school teacher to attend and receive the religious instruction herein permitted.”

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines, composed of the Aglipayan Church and seven Protestant denominations, opposes the measure, saying that it violates the spirit of the ecumenical movement launched by the late Pope John XXIII.

The fate of the measure may depend on whether it is acted upon now or held over until next year. If the Senate does anything with the bill this year, it will probably pass it, according to CHRISTIANITY TODAY’S Philippines correspondent, Eustaquio Ramientos, who says: “It is doubtful whether there is a single Catholic senator in the Philippines who is willing to risk his political future by opposing the stand of the Catholic hierarchy on the religious instruction bill, this year being an election year.…” On the other hand, “shelving the bill until next year would at least give the oppositionists … more time to entrench.… There is not much expectation among evangelicals in the country that the President of the Philippines would veto the measure, he being a protege of the Philippines’ Cardinal Rufino Santos.”

Evangelicals in the Philippines are also aroused by the news that the country’s top Catholic journalists, in collaboration with leading Catholic churchmen, plan to start a national Catholic daily newspaper. The Philippine press is now regarded as one of the freest in the world; the metropolitan newspapers have given full coverage of the opposition to the religious instruction bill. However, as would be expected in a predominantly Catholic country, Catholic press representation and patronage is considerable.

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