Tax-Exempt Status of American Studies Association to be challenged if Israel boycott resolution passes
Voting on the resolution ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, December 15. If the resolution passes, I intend on challenging ASA’s 501(c)(3) status through IRS procedures.
To that end, I have retained one of the leading practitioners in the field of charitable organizations, Alan P. Dye, Esq., to file a challenge to ASA’s 501(c)(3) status if the resolution passes. We expect to file the challenge prior to year end, if not sooner.
ASA’s anti-Israel academic boycott resolution calls ASA’s 501(c)(3) status into question for many reasons, including but not limited to the act of engaging in an academic boycott not satisfying the requirements of 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code that an organization must be “organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable,…or educational purposes…” An academic boycott, which clearly is a substantial activity of the ASA and will be for the coming years, does not satisfy this test.
In addition, the anti-Israel boycott arguably exceeds ASA’s legal purpose as set forth in its bylaws, among other places, used to obtain that tax exempt status:
The object of the association shall be the promotion of the study of American culture through the encouragement of research, teaching, publication, the strengthening of relations among persons and institutions in this country and abroad devoted to such studies, and the broadening of knowledge among the general public about American culture in all its diversity and complexity.
The ASA boycott also arguably is unlawful under the NY State Human Rights law, and possibly other anti-discrimination laws, in that it discriminates on the basis of national original and religion. Indeed, a letter opposing the resolution signed by numerous ASA members including 7 past Presidents notes:
In no other context does the ASA discriminate on the basis of national origin—and for good reason. This is discrimination pure and simple. Worse, it is also discrimination that inevitably diminishes the pursuit of knowledge, by discarding knowledge simply because it is produced by a certain group of people.
Adopting an unlawful and/or discriminatory academic boycott resolution and acting on that resolution calls ASA’s 501(c)(3) status into question under IRS guidelines.
The boycott also violates the clear public policy of the United States against boycotts of Israel, as expressed in anti-boycott legislation directed at the Arab League boycott of Israel. Regardless of whether the ASA action violates the terms of the anti-boycott legislation, the academic boycott violates the public policy expressed by the law. The violation of public policy, apart from violation of a specific statute, is one of the factors considered by the IRS as to whether to revoke tax-exempt status.
There will be additional reasons set forth in our filing.
What our challenge does not do is focus on ASA’s advocacy or speech.
As I stated before, ASA can spew all the venom it wants at Israel, but once it becomes a participant as an organization in an academic boycott of Israel based on unlawful and/or discriminatory grounds, ASA has ceased acting for charitable or educational purposes and is not entitled to the tax preferences that come from 501(c)(3) status.DONATE
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