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IRS Should Investigate Florida Church For Opposing Mayoral Candidate, Says Americans United
WASHINGTON - March 26 - Americans United for Separation of Church and State today asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate a church in Gainesville, Fla., that posted a sign opposing a mayoral candidate.
Dove World Outreach Center erected a sign on its property reading, “No Homo Mayor.” The reference is to Craig Lowe, a mayoral candidate who is gay.
Contacted about the matter by the Gainesville Sun, a top church official admitted that the church had erected the sign.
“We don’t feel as though the city should be represented by a homosexual,” said Terry Jones, senior pastor at Dove World Outreach Center.
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, called the church’s actions a blatant example of illegal politicking by a tax-exempt group.
“This is an open-and-shut case,” Lynn said. “The church freely admits that it intended to intervene in the election in violation of federal tax law. I urge the IRS to act promptly.”
Americans United sent a letter to IRS officials today, asking them to investigate the matter.
Jones told the Sun he believes the church is acting within its constitutional rights. But as Americans United pointed out in its letter to the IRS, groups accepting tax exemptions must meet certain conditions, including refraining from election interventions.
AU also noted that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected the free speech defense in a 2000 ruling in the case Branch Ministries v. Rosotti.