The NAACP passed a resolution Tuesday night condemning Tea Party activists, or at least some Tea Party activists, as racists who want “to push our country back to the pre-civil rights era.”
Tea Party groups across the country have vehemently denied that charge, calling Tuesday’s resolution a hypocritical act on the part of the NAACP — which has traditionally fought against stereotypes.
In a session that was closed to the media, the resolution that ultimately passed was toned down, according to the NAACP, to just “ask the Tea Party itself to repudiate the racist elements and activities of the Tea Party.” An original draft appeared to suggest — and many Tea Party leaders inferred — that the resolution accused the entire movement of being motivated by racial concerns.
“We take no issue with the Tea Party movement,” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said in a statement released late Tuesday night, after the vote. “We believe in freedom of assembly and people raising their voices in a democracy. What we take issue with is the Tea Party’s continued tolerance for bigotry and bigoted statements.”
Nonetheless, the St. Louis Tea Party is calling for the civil rights group to lose its tax-exempt status. “The NAACP is closely aligning with a partisan political campaign strategy,” said Bill Hennessy, a leader of the St. Louis Tea Party.
Hennessy says the resolution was really a political maneuver aimed at the Tea Party because its activists are threatening NAACP political goals and desires, like on social welfare issues. “If they exist to be a political organization, then donations are not tax deductible like they would be to an organization that exists to educate,” he added.
Hennessy says he thinks the NAACP — which was investigated during the George W. Bush presidency when then-leader Julian Bond criticized Republicans during a convention, but was ultimately cleared of violating their tax-exempt status — should face the same questions any other non-profit group would face. “If right of center groups, such as churches ever dare to cross a line, they are threatened by the ACLU and other leftists groups demanding their tax-exempt status be yanked,” he said.
But one expert in tax-exemptions doesn’t think the Tea Partiers will have much luck in having the NAACP investigated.
“If the question is whether the NAACP’s labeling of Tea Party beliefs and statements as racist constitutes a violation of IRC 501(c)(3)’s prohibition against campaign intervention, I would say ‘no,’” said Darryll K. Jones, an associate dean at the Florida A&M University College of Law.
He said that timing and context has a lot to do with the entire matter.
“If a negative description is made in the context of a specific, hotly contested race and on a subject about which one candidate is clearly associated, there might be an argument that a charity is engaging in prohibited campaign intervention,” he said. “But a broad criticism of a party with reference to no particular political contest is not a violation.”