Pastors' political endorsements draw complaints
Political endorsements from the pulpit trigger complaints to IRS - as conservative group hoped
The Associated Press
September 29, 2008
A church-state separation group filed complaints Monday with the Internal Revenue Service against six churches whose pastors either endorsed or made pointed comments about political candidates from their pulpits Sunday in defiance of federal tax law.
The Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based conservative legal group, orchestrated the pulpit protest to invite IRS scrutiny and a legal fight it hopes will lead to the restrictions being found unconstitutional.
The group released a list Monday of 33 participating pastors - most if not all from conservative evangelical churches - and pledged to defend them.
The pastors intend to send copies of their sermons to the IRS. But Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State didn't wait for that: The group filed complaints Monday with the IRS about six pastors whose sermons were detailed in media reports.
Five of the six supported Republican presidential candidate John McCain. The sixth, Wiley Drake of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., said: "According to my Bible and in my opinion, there is no way in the world a Christian can vote for Barack Hussein Obama." Drake was not among the pastors Alliance Defense Fund selected for the protest and was acting independently.
The five others reported to the IRS were Jody Hice of Bethlehem First Baptist Church in Bethlehem, Ga.; Paul Blair of Fairview Baptist Church in Edmond, Okla.; Gus Booth of Warroad Community Church in Warroad, Minn.; Francis Pultro of Calvary Chapel Kings Highway in Philadelphia; and Luke Emrich of New Life Church in West Bend, Wis.
The IRS has said it would "take action as appropriate." The agency does not comment on specific complaints.
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