Americans United for Separation of Church and State has filed a complaint with the IRS over a preacher in Kentucky who told his congregation to vote President Barack Obama out of office this November.
"Religious leaders have every right to address public issues, but they cannot turn their tax-exempt ministries into political action committees," Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, said. "If houses of worship want to be partisan and dive into electoral politics, they ought to give up their tax exemptions."
Pastor Ronnie Spriggs of Hager Hill Freewill Baptist Church said during a Sunday service that Obama should not be re-elected because of his recent endorsement of same sex marriage.
"Did y’all hear that? He said that he believes that gays ought to have the right to marry in the United States. That’s the president of the United States who said that. Amen. I don’t know about you folks, but I’m going on record and I don’t care who knows it. I want the guy out," Spriggs said.
“This country can’t afford that kind of ideology in that office," he added. "Amen. That’s too high office. I can disagree with anyone and we can go on, but when a man sits in the highest seat in this country and my freedom and your freedom is in his hands, I can’t afford for that man to have that kind of ideology and be that far against Christ."
"We need to really be prayerful, and we need to get active," Spriggs later said. "If you’ve ever opened your mouth, you better open it now. Between now and November, God’s people ought to thunder this country. We ought to let this country know that we will not be silent on these issues."
Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code prohibits charities and churches from intervening in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate. The IRS has been reluctant to revoke churches' tax-exempt status for violating the 52-year-old IRS rule, but the agency has issued written warnings to dozens of churches.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State said it had reported more than 100 violations of the rule since 1996.