The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is reviewing tax laws for nonprofit 501(c)3 organizations and trying to determine how to apply them to nonprofit sites on the Internet. The agency has published a series of proposals for comment that have angered some Christian organizations and been applauded by others.

Some groups, especially those that regularly comment on political and social issues, are concerned that the proposed regulations would limit free speech. Others, such as the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), share the IRS's goals, believing it is necessary to begin setting guidelines for online ministry and fundraising.

The major concern of some advocacy organizations is that they will not be allowed to link to political sites, or even sites with a small percentage of political content on the Internet. Other proposals would require nonprofits to take greater responsibility for message-board postings and chat-room conversations.

Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey condemned the IRS review, saying that "turning the tax man into a Net cop would have a chilling effect on free speech on the Internet."

Wendy Wright, director of communications for Concerned Women for America, agrees. She worries that the IRS proposals would limit the amount of political coverage her organization supplies to Christians.

"We should all agree that we want Americans to have access to the maximum amount of information and political commentary," Wright told Christianity Today.

The IRS review was open to comment from nonprofits through February 13, 2001, after which, the IRS said, it would reassess its proposals. Even if the IRS eventually decides to enforce the guidelines, adopting them would very likely be "a very slow process" ...

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