Message to IRS: Enforce Laws Against Tax Exempt Religious Groups Engaged in Partisan Politics

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Matt Jacob
Phone: 202.408.5565

Message to IRS: Enforce Laws Against Tax Exempt Religious Groups Engaged in Partisan Politics

WASHINGTON - Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
asked the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate whether voter
guide/legislative scorecards distributed by the Pray in the Jesus Name
Project violate federal tax code. The project, affiliated with Persuade
the World Ministries, has put out voter guides for all 50 states, rating
politicians as "Anti-Jesus" or "faith friendly." 
Surprisingly, politicians involved in sex scandals, such as Sen. John
Ensign (R-NV) and David Vitter (R-LA) are rated as 100% "faith
friendly."

"Federal law prohibits preachers from politicking from the pulpit,
but that is exactly what Pray in Jesus Name Project is asking clergy
across the country to do," said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan.
"Pray in the Name of Jesus is attempting to use churches to advance its
overt political agenda; any churches that go along with this plan and
distribute the guides will risk their own tax status in the process."

According to the Pray in Jesus Name website,
the "Shock and Awe Free Voter Guide" is designed to "equip and
mobilize" church voters. The site features a picture of Sen. Majority
Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
and states: "How much would you pay to see the ‘shock and awe' look on
the faces of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi this fall?"  The project aims
to have these voter guides faxed to 120,000 churches for distribution
during Sunday services.

Tax law prohibits 501(c)(3) organizations from distributing blatantly
partisan voter guides prior to an election.  While voter guides may be
distributed to educate voters, they can't be used to attempt to favor or
oppose candidates.  In considering the legality of voter guides, the
IRS has said a key factor is whether the descriptions of the candidates'
positions are neutral, unbiased and represent a complete compilation. 
In this case, Pray in Jesus Name describes candidates as "pro-abortion,"
"pro-homosexual," and "anti-free speech" - hardly neutral, unbiased
descriptions.

"The IRS should investigate whether Pray in Jesus Name is violating
its own tax status and warn churches that by distributing the voter
guides created this group, they are jeopardizing their own 501(c)(3)
status," said Sloan. "Just as ‘a rose by any other name is still a
rose,' political campaign intervention called voter guides is still
political campaign intervention." 

CLICK HERE to read CREW's letter to the IRS (10/26/10).

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Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials -- regardless of party affiliation -- who sacrifice the common good to special interests. CREW advances its mission using a combination of research, litigation and media outreach.

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