The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

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Joe Conn
Rob Boston
Sandhya Bathija

'Values Voter Summit' Tries to Push Churches Into Illegal Partisan Politicking, Says Americans United

Church-State Watchdog Group Blasts Backers of Religious Right Event for Ethical Violations


Religious Right leaders are so determined to forge conservative
churches into a partisan political machine that they are even willing
to break federal law to do it, says Americans United for Separation of
Church and State.

The so-called "Values Voter Summit" takes place this weekend in
Washington, D.C. Sponsored by Family Research Council Action (FRCA) and
the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), the two-day event is designed to
mobilize evangelical churches and church-goers in advance of the
November elections.

But the Summit comes less than a week after three top former
Internal Revenue Service officials filed a complaint with the IRS
alleging unethical conduct by the ADF.

The ADF, the nation's largest Religious Right legal group, is asking
pastors to endorse or oppose candidates from the pulpit on Sept. 28 in
violation of federal tax law.

Prominent Washington tax attorneys and former IRS officials Marcus Owens, Mort Caplin and Cono Namorato told the IRS
on Monday that the ADF is "coordinating mass violation of federal tax
law." The three say this clearly violates the ethics rules governing
practice before the IRS, and they called for an IRS investigation and
appropriate penalties.

"There seems to be a real values void at the Values Voter Summit,"
remarked the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans
United. "I long for the days when conservatives urged respect for the
law, not flagrant violation of it.

"More and more Americans are telling pollsters they are tired of the
politicization of religion," Lynn continued. "The sponsors of the
Values Voter Summit have yet to get that message.

"Summit organizers are deeply partisan, and they want to enlist
America's churches in their electioneering efforts," Lynn concluded. "I
believe religious leaders will reject reckless schemes that undercut
the rule of law and the integrity of our houses of worship."

Lynn said Americans United is responding to the FRCA-ADF overture in several ways.

The church-state watchdog group has launched a new Web site,, to educate pastors, laypeople and others about
the requirements of federal tax law. The site also urges citizens to
report violations. When the facts warrant, Americans United files
complaints with the IRS about flagrant violations of tax law by
religious groups.

Americans United is also circulating a letter to churches advising religious leaders about the rules governing tax-exempt entities and politics.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.