Americans United Advises Houses of Worship to Refrain From Intervening in Partisan Politics

For Immediate Release

Americans United Advises Houses of Worship to Refrain From Intervening in Partisan Politics

Church-State Watchdog Group Says Pastor Violated Federal Tax Law With Call to Vote For McCain

WASHINGTON - Americans United for Separation of Church and State is advising
houses of worship nationwide to respect federal tax law and stay out of
partisan politics.

Americans United announced today that 100,000 letters have been
mailed to clergy and lay leaders reminding them that federal tax law
prohibits tax-exempt entities, including houses of worship, from
endorsing candidates.

"Houses of worship are supposed to tend to spiritual needs and do
charitable work, not act as political action committees," said the Rev.
Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. "Our letter reminds
religious leaders about what the law requires, why it makes sense and
how it could affect them."

The AU letters were sent to a broad cross-section of Christian denominations, as well as a selection of synagogues and mosques.

Said Lynn, "The vast majority of clergy of all faiths reject the
idea that houses of worship should be politicized. But misguided
religious and political forces persist in pressuring religious leaders
to violate federal tax law. We urge clergy to just say no."

The mass mailing comes on the heels of a project by the Alliance
Defense Fund (ADF), a Religious Right legal group, which last month
urged evangelical Christian pastors to violate the law by endorsing or
opposing candidates from the pulpit. Reportedly, 33 pastors took part
in the ADF effort; Americans United has already filed complaints with
the IRS about seven of them.

In addition to its mass mailing to houses of worship, Americans
United is making various resources about church politicking available
to religious leaders and laypeople through a Web site it created called
projectfairplay.org.

Several recent polls, Lynn noted, have shown a majority of Americans
opposing pulpit politicking. Americans of all political persuasions and
faith backgrounds are increasingly saying they want their houses of
worship to unite people, not divide them by introducing partisan
politics.

"Church-based electioneering drives wedges into congregations,
violates federal tax law and distracts from the true mission of the
religious community," Lynn said. "It's a bad deal all around."

 

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