Religion in Society

IRS Should Investigate Ga. Church's Political Endorsement

| by AUSCS

Americans United for Separation of
Church and State has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate a
Richmond church that endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brian Moran
during June 7 services. Moran visited and spoke at the Fifth
Street Baptist Church, where he was endorsed by its pastor, the Rev. F. Todd
Gray. Gray advised his flock that he plans to vote for Moran, reported The Washington Post.

Gray told the congregation, “Brian
is right on guns. He’s right on affirmative action. He’s right on taxes. He’s
right on jobs. I’m not telling you who to vote for. I’m just telling you who I’m
voting for. I’m voting for Brian Moran.”

Under federal tax law, 501(c)(3)
non-profit organizations, including houses of worship, may not endorse or oppose
candidates for public office. The IRS says candidates may appear in houses of
worship during election season under certain conditions but makes it clear that
church endorsements are not permitted.

“A church service is not a political
rally, and church officials should not act as though it is,” said the Rev. Barry
W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “This church appears to have
stepped over the line, and the IRS should investigate
immediately.”

In a letter to the IRS today, Lynn pointed out that the church
endorsement came just two days before the Virginia Democratic primary. Lynn
asserted that it is clear that Gray hoped to influence the outcome of the
election by mobilizing votes for Moran.

“When the church invites one
candidate to speak from its pulpit on the Sunday before the election and that
candidate is then endorsed by the church’s top official, the non-partisan
character of the institution has been compromised,” observed Lynn’s letter to
the IRS

Read the Opposing Views debate, Should Religious Leaders Be Able to Endorse Political Candidates?