For Immediate Release
Americans United Urges IRS To Investigate Okla. Religious Group That Promoted Candidate
WASHINGTON - Americans United for Separation of Church and State today asked the
Internal Revenue Service to investigate Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ,
charging that the organization violated federal law by promoting a
candidate’s campaign rally.
Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ operates as a tax-exempt group and
solicits tax-deductible donations on its Web site, but last month it
distributed an e-mail in support of Rep. Sally Kern, a candidate seeking
reelection to the state House of Representatives.
Headlined, “Rally for Sally on Thursday!!,” the email message
advocated attendance at “a Campaign Rally for Representative Sally Kern”
June 24 in Warr Acres, Okla.
A tagline on the message indicated it was sent from the advisory
board of Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ. Federal law bars tax-exempt
groups from intervening in elections by endorsing or opposing
Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director,
“Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ can’t be tax exempt and engage in
partisan politicking at the same time. If the group wants to help Sally
Kern or other candidates get elected, it must first forgo tax-exempt
In a letter
to the IRS today, AU’s Lynn urged the federal agency to
“investigate this matter and take the necessary steps to see that the
law is obeyed.”
Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ cited Kern’s stance on social issues
as the reason for its support.
“In case you missed it,” the email message asserted, “the homosexual
lobby has recruited an individual that has had a sex change operation to
run against Rep. Kern. The homosexual lobby from across America will be
pouring money into this local race in an attempt to make a statement to
the country by knocking out an outspoken Christian, pro-family
representative. If they succeed, it will serve as a warning shot
across the bough of all elected officials who defend Biblical values.
Even if this is not your district, this race will effect [sic] you! Once a person is
elected to the legislature, their voting impacts ALL Oklahomans.”
Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ apparently operates out of Fairview
Baptist Church in Edmond. The group and the church have the same phone
number, and a link to the group’s Web site is featured prominently on
the church’s homepage.
In news accounts, the church’s pastor, Paul Blair, is identified as
founder and president of Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ. The group’s Web
site contains a column by Blair attacking the provision in federal law
that bars electioneering by churches and other non-profits.
Progressive clergy oppose misuse of tax-exempt resources to intervene
in partisan politics.
The Rev. Bruce Prescott, a Baptist minister in Norman, Okla., and a
member of the Americans United Board of Trustees, called on the IRS to
“Organizations like Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ should not be
permitted to make a mockery of our laws,” Prescott said. “I urge the IRS
to hold this group accountable for its actions.
“Religion should never be politicized,” Prescott said. “It undermines
the integrity of our houses of worship and is certain to divide
congregations and communities.”
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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.