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April 12, 2014 – Shurat Hadin (the Israel Law Center) has filed a legal complaint against the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), alleging violations of the US tax code for unlawful political lobbying and contact with Hezbollah, a US-designated terrorist organization.
The Tel Aviv-based organization publicized the submission of its 38-page complaint with the US Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday.
“It is high time the IRS took a long look at the Presbyterian Church and investigated its meeting with the designated- terrorist organization Hezbollah, its lobbying activities, and its anti-Israel divestment policies,” said Shurat Hadin spokesman attorney Robert Tolchin.
“The PCUSA is obsessed with attacking the Jewish state and has moved far from the activities which it presented to the IRS to secure its tax-free status in the United States.”
Shurat Hadin said it provided the IRS with “documentary and video evidence showing PCUSA delegates meeting with the US-designated terrorist group Hezbollah, publishing anti-Semitic materials, enacting a racist policy to divest from American companies doing business with Israel, lobbying the US Congress, and distributing political advocacy materials in violation of its tax-exempt status as a religious organization.”
The PCUSA declined to provide an immediate comment on the accusations.
Yitzhak Santis, chief programs officer of the Jerusalem- based NGO Monitor, told The Jerusalem Post that, ”Culminating a decade of activism supporting BDS in the Presbyterian Church (USA), the denomination last summer passed a one-sided anti-Israel resolution calling for divestment from companies doing business in Israel. This action frayed relations between the Jewish community and the Presbyterian Church (USA).”
In June, the PCUSA voted to divest from companies that conduct business in the West Bank.
The narrow 310 to 303 vote in favor of divestment affected such businesses as Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, and Motorola Solutions.
The boycott move sparked sharp criticisms from US Jewish organizations.
“In the mid-2000s,” Santis said, “faculty of Presbyterian Church (USA) seminaries held a series of meetings in Lebanon with Hezbollah officials that included seminary students. In both instances, Presbyterian faculty praised the Hezbollah terrorist group. These unethical and shameful meetings demonstrate the depth of hostility toward Israel underlying the anti-Israel agitation in the Presbyterian Church (USA).”
He added, “The spirit of these meetings with Hezbollah is carried today by the Presbyterian Church’s Israel Palestine Mission Network, which spearheads the pro- BDS effort in that church.
NGO Monitor has documented clear evidence of anti-Semitism within the IPMN, which the PCUSA has thus far failed to address.”
Shurat Hadin said PCUSA’s status with the IRS was based upon its 1964 representation to the government that it functions as a religious body, engaging in peaceful relationships with individuals of all faiths and wholly unengaged in political activities.”
According to Shurat Hadin, PCUSA violated its own mission statement by engaging in political advocacy and “taking positions on the geo-political dispute between Palestinian Arabs and Israelis.”
It noted that, “There is no mention in PCUSA organizing documents that it perceives fulfilling Christ’s work by meeting with and endorsing statements of a US-designated terrorist organization found to be responsible for the death of United States civilians and marines.”