A small non-denominational church in Texas violated federal tax law by urging passers-by to vote for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, according to Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Ray Miller, pastor of the Church in the Valley in Leakey, last week posted a message on the church’s marquee that read: “Vote for the Mormon, not the Muslim! The capitalist, not the communist!”
Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said it was clear the message urged voters to support Romney and reject President Barack Obama. Some conservatives believe Obama is a Muslim, even though he has been a practicing Christian for many years. Gallup found last year that 18 percent of Republicans believed Obama was Muslim.
“Miller may indeed have strong feelings about the election, but that does not give him the right to use his tax-exempt church to endorse a candidate,” Lynn said in a complaint to the IRS. “In fact, Miller’s actions are, I believe, a clear and flagrant violation of the law.”
The Johnson amendment in the Internal Revenue Code prohibits tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate.
Churches that violate the statute can have their tax-exempt status revoked, but are more likely to just receive a warning letter.
“Millions of Americans are aware that this church has openly violated the law, and many of them are asking what the IRS intends to do about it. Failure to act will only spur more houses of worship to ignore the law,” Lynn added.
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