For Immediate Release
Americans United Asks IRS to Investigate Los Angeles Church That ‘Tweeted’ Candidate to Victory
Church’s Use of Web Site and Twitter to Endorse Candidate Violates Federal Tax Law, Watchdog Group Says
WASHINGTON - Americans United for Separation of Church and State has asked the
Internal Revenue Service to investigate a Los Angeles church that used
its Web site and the social networking site Twitter to urge congregants
to support a candidate for public office.
Oasis Church posted a statement on its Web site noting that a church
official, Alex Jones-Moreno, was seeking reelection to the Greater
Wilshire Neighborhood City Council. It asked church members to vote for
"Oasis Church's appeals might have been innovative, but they still
violate the law," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of
Americans United. "Federal law bars churches and other tax-exempt
non-profits from electioneering. The IRS should crack down on these
In advance of the election, the church Web site said, "Did you know
the Neighborhood City Council Elections are May 13th? Our very own Alex
Jones-Moreno, Director of Social Justice, is running for reelection? We
are asking everyone who attends, serves, gives or is a part of Oasis
Church to please cast your vote for Alex Jones-Moreno during the
upcoming elections. Having Alex elected will help us better serve our
community. Being a part of the Neighborhood City Council is extremely
important as we continue to grow and look to secure a future venue for
our church family."
The message has since been removed from the church's Web site, but a
similar one was later posted that read, "Our very own Alex Jones-Moreno,
Director of Social Justice, is running for reelection. We are asking
everyone who attends, serves, gives or is a part of Oasis Church to
please cast your vote for Alex Jones-Moreno during the upcoming
On Election Day, the church sent eight messages through Twitter
urging members to vote for Jones-Moreno. After the election, the church
sent a final "tweet" taking credit for Jones-Moreno's victory.
Federal law prohibits tax-exempt entities, including houses of
worship, from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office. In a letter
sent to the IRS yesterday, Americans United asked the tax agency to
investigate Oasis Church's intervention in this election.
"I believe these Web postings and Twitter messages are evidence of a
clear pattern of Oasis Church's deliberate intervention in a partisan
election with the aim of electing Jones-Moreno," wrote Lynn in the
letter. "They appear to constitute a violation of federal law."
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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.