The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Joe Conn, Rob Boston or Simon Brown

Americans United Asks IRS To Investigate El Paso Church That Urged Parishioners to Vote Against Obama

Church-State Watchdog Group Says St. Raphael’s Church May Have Violated Federal Law With Election Intervention


Americans United for Separation of Church and State today asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate an El Paso Catholic church that called for the defeat of President Barack Obama.

St. Raphael Catholic Church ran a notice in a church bulletin dated Aug. 5 that reads, "I am asking all of you to go to the polls and be united in replacing our present president with a president that will respect the Catholic Church in this country. Please pass this on to all of your Catholic friends."

Federal law prohibits non-profit organizations, including houses of worship, from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office, and that includes placing such notices in official church publications. AU says St. Raphael's has run afoul of that standard.

"St. Raphael's is a church, not a political action committee," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "It needs to follow the law or face the consequences."

The church is not denying that the notice appeared in its publication. The matter was reported in the El Paso Times Sept. 7.

In its letter to the IRS, Americans United observed, "The language that appeared in the bulletin - an official publication of the church - clearly encourages parishioners to vote against incumbent presidential candidate Barack Obama."

It goes on to say, "Since federal law prohibits tax-exempt, non-profit organizations (including houses of worship) from intervening in elections like this, I believe St. Raphael Church is in violation of the law."

Americans United's Project Fair Play encourages religious organizations to learn about the provisions of federal tax law. When churches or other religious groups flagrantly violate the law, AU files complaints with the IRS.

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.