Magazine article Church & State

AU Reports Churches to IRS for Improper Pulpit Politicking

Magazine article Church & State

AU Reports Churches to IRS for Improper Pulpit Politicking

Article excerpt

As election season 2010 came to a close, Americans United asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate several churches that engage in unlawful partisan politicking.

In mid October, AU filed a complaint after the pastor of Berean Bible Church in Hastings endorsed several political candidates during an Oct. 17 sermon. Pastor Brad Brandon endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer and several other candidates from the pulpit.

"Pastor Brandon has pulled his tax-exempt church into partisan politics in blatant violation of federal law," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "This a clear-cut case, and the IRS should act."

A reporter with the Minnesota Independent attended the service and reported that Brandon endorsed Emmer and several other candidates for U.S. Congress and state offices. Brandon also distributed a flier listing the candidates that the church has endorsed.

The pastor was upfront about his actions and had, in fact, indicated beforehand that he would endorse candidates from the pulpit.

"This has been recorded, taped this morning," he said. "We are not shy about what we are doing. In fact we are very, very bold in what we are doing. I am not violating the IRS code 501 (c) (3). I don't consider myself violating that, but I do consider myself exercising my free speech."

Americans United said Brandon is wrong. Federal law prohibits 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, from intervening in elections by endorsing or opposing candidates. …

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