Americans United for the Separation of Church and State has sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service accusing Pastor Robert Jeffress of violating the law when he posted his endorsement of presidential hopeful Rick Perry on the First Baptist Church of Dallas website.
Jeffress, the head of First Baptist Church, endorsed Perry at Friday’s Values Voter Summit, the same event where he called Mormonism a ‘cult.’ After the event, Jeffress went on a media blitz and posted a video of himself explaining his comments on the church’s website.
The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said when Jeffress posted the endorsement on the church’s website, he was offering an endorsement from the church, a violation of IRS rules for tax-exempt organizations like churches.
“The tax code has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to campaigning for candidates,” Lynn said. “If you put something on your church website, it is not enough to put a disclaimer on it.”
Michael E. Batts, a CPA who has been practicing in the area of tax exempt organizations for more than 25 years and is not a member of the Dallas church, says the rules are not as black and white, though.
“The mere fact that a church might post video on its website of the comments of its pastor in other settings is not cut and dry,” Batts said. “A determination would have to be made as to whether the post represents an endorsement by the church or whether it is something else.”
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