This is hardly news to me because I recall this kind of activity during other elections, most memorably, the 2004 election when people were urged to “vote your conscience”. This is, however, a blatant attempt to override the 54 year old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt entities. I’m assuming these 30+ plus pastors are endorsing McCain because of his views on abortion and homosexuality. There’s an interesting video on CNN. Let’s see how they fare with the IRS, because I also remember Bush going after the NAACP for criticizing the Bush Administration. Oh wait, I think the “vote your conscience” pastors got by just fine… I’m sure there are pastors endorsing Obama, but I’m sure they aren’t crazy enough to taunt the IRS. Chris Rock is right, Republicans just make up their own rules…
CROWN POINT, Ind., Sept. 28 — Defying a federal law that prohibits U.S. clergy from endorsing political candidates from the pulpit, an evangelical Christian minister told his congregation Sunday that voting for Sen. Barack Obama would be evidence of “severe moral schizophrenia.”
The Rev. Ron Johnson Jr. told worshipers that the Democratic presidential nominee’s positions on abortion and gay partnerships exist “in direct opposition to God’s truth as He has revealed it in the Scriptures.” Johnson showed slides contrasting the candidates’ views but stopped short of endorsing Obama’s Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain.
Johnson and 32 other pastors across the country set out Sunday to break the rules, hoping to generate a legal battle that will prompt federal courts to throw out a 54-year-old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of worship.
The ministers contend they have a constitutional right to advise their worshipers how to vote. As Johnson put it during a break between sermons, “The point that the IRS says you can’t do it, I’m saying you’re wrong.”
The campaign, organized by the Alliance Defense Fund, a socially conservative legal consortium based in Arizona, has gotten the attention of the Internal Revenue Service. The agency, alerted by opponents, pledged to “monitor the situation and take action as appropriate.”
Each campaign season brings allegations that a member of the clergy has crossed a line set out in a 1954 amendment to the tax code that says nonprofit, tax-exempt entities may not “participate in, or intervene in . . . any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office.”
This time, the church action is concerted. Yet while the ministers say the rules stifle religious expression, their opponents contend that the tax laws are essential to protect the separation of church and state. They say political speech should not be supported by a tax break for the churches or the worshipers who are contributing to a political cause. Continue reading