For Immediate Release
IRS Should Investigate Virginia Church for Partisan Politicking, Says Americans United
WASHINGTON - 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.
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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.