The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: (202) 466-3234,Joe Conn,Rob Boston,Sandhya Bathija

IRS Should Investigate Okla. Church That Endorsed Candidate, Says Americans United

Church-State Watchdog Group Calls On Tax Agency To Investigate Fairview Baptist Church For Illegal Electioneering


Internal Revenue Service should investigate an Edmond, Okla., church whose
pastor endorsed a gubernatorial candidate from the pulpit, says Americans
United for Separation of Church and State.

Paul Blair of Fairview Baptist Church endorsed Republican hopeful Mary Fallin
from the pulpit during services Sept. 26.

law prohibits all 501(c)(3) non-profit groups, which includes houses of
worship, from intervening in elections by endorsing or opposing candidates for
public office.

churches become cogs in any candidate's political machine, they ought to lose
their tax exemption," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of
Americans United. "I urge the IRS to investigate this matter and apply the

a complaint
filed with the IRS today, Lynn said the facts are clear.

is a top official and paid staff member of Fairview Baptist Church," wrote Lynn
in the letter. "He was speaking to the congregation in his official capacity
and during a church meeting. As such, his candidate endorsement from the pulpit
constitutes an official endorsement by the nonprofit religious organization

noted that this is the second time Blair has flouted federal law. In 2008,
Blair endorsed U.S. Sen. John McCain for president from the pulpit.

issued the endorsements as part of "Pulpit Freedom Sunday," an annual event
sponsored by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). The ADF, a Religious Right legal
group founded by TV preachers, prods pastors to openly defy the law by
endorsing or opposing candidates from the pulpit.

To counter the ADF's church electioneering
scheme, Americans United maintains a Web site called Project Fair Play ( that
educates religious leaders and the American public about what houses of worship
may and may not do in the political arena. As part of the project, Americans
United reports pastors who violate the law to the

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.