subject: AANEWS for January 9, 1997 A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S A A N E W S #228 1/9/9

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from: AMERICAN ATHEISTS subject: AANEWS for January 9, 1997 A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S ~~ A A N E W S ~~ #228 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~1/9/97 e-mail: ATHEISTS CALL FOR PROBE OF BUDDHIST TAX EXEMPTIONS Johnson Warns Religious Political Activism "Getting Out Of Control" American Atheists called today for an official investigation into the tax exempt religious status of two Buddhist organizations linked to the recent Democratic Party "soft money" scandal. In a letter to Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Margaret Richardson, AA President Ellen Johnson cited possible violations by the Hsi Lai Temple of Los Angeles, affiliated with the Internal Buddhist Progress Society, and the cult of "Supreme Master" Ching Hai. The groups funnelled substantial amounts of money into the coffers of the Democratic National Committee and President Clinton's Whitewater defense fund. At least $140,000 was collected at a fund raiser held at the Hsi Lai Temple; and Hai's group raised over $600,000 which was conveyed to the Democrats through Charles Trie, a White House political operative and friend of the Clinton's. Johnson noted that "The so-called 'temple fundraiser' and the questionable actions of 'Supreme Master' Hai involve religious movements engaging in partisan political activism." She added: "These are two more possible violations of both electioneering laws and IRS regulations which govern tax exempt organization." "We see a disturbing trend throughout the nation," Johnson told AANEWS. "Churches, temples and other religious groups are engaging in over partisan political activity even though they're not supposed to if they wish to maintain their special tax exempt status." She said that electioneering activism by religious group in the last election demonstrated that churches were "out of control." ** (Text of American Atheists letter to Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service) The following letter has been sent to Margaret Milner Richardson, Commissioner of the Service, and news media... Dear Commissioner: As President of American Atheists, a group dedicated to the total and absolute separation of state and church, I wish to express our concern over developments involving the so-called "soft money" and improper contributions made by and through religious groups to the Democratic National Committee and President Clinton's legal defense fund. At least two Buddhist religious groups have thus far been linked to highly questionable activities during the last president campaign. The Hsi Lai Temple, a Los Angeles-based sect operated by the International Buddhist Progress Society currently has a religious tax exemption. A similar status is enjoyed by Buddhist religious leader "Supreme Master" Ching Hai. You are undoubtedly aware from press accounts and other sources that the Hsi Lai Temple was involved in a $140,000 fund raiser organized by Mr. John Huang to benefit the Democratic National Committee. Mr. Charles Trie, another fund raising official, is a follower of Ching Hai, and reportedly orchestrated the attempted transfer of up to $600,000 in questionable checks and other instruments to the President's legal defense fund. During the recent campaign, there was considerable controversy surrounding the partisan political actions of religious groups. The Federal Elections Commission has filed a complaint against one organization, the Christian Coalition; and your own Agency is aware of the activities of several churches which may well have violated their special tax-exempt privilege by engaging in partisan political organizing -- specifically, the Second Baptist Church of Houston, Texas. As a private citizen and the head of an organization which labors on behalf of separation of state and church, I am concerned about the threats such activities post to our First Amendment liberties. American Atheists wishes to go on record and request your Office to examine the tax-exempt status of the Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple, and similar corporate entities linked to Supreme Master Ching Hai. I welcome discussion with you on these matters, and look forward to hearing from you soon. (signed) ELLEN JOHNSON, PRESIDENT AMERICAN ATHEISTS, Inc. ** About This List... AANEWS is a free service from American Atheists, a nationwide movement founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair for the advancement of Atheism, and the total, absolute separation of government and religion. For subscribe/unsubscribe information, send mail to and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks, please) in the message body. 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