Americans United for Separation of Church and State today asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate a New York City church that endorsed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in its church bulletin.
The Church of Saint Catherine of Siena’s Sept. 2 bulletin contains a column by the Rev. John Farren, a member of the congregation’s pastoral staff. Titled “From Father Farren, O.P.,” the essay reprints an appeal by several former U.S. ambassadors to the Vatican calling on Catholics to vote for Romney.
The appeal, which Farren reproduced in full, criticizes the Obama administration and concludes, “We urge our fellow Catholics, and indeed all people of good will, to join with us in this full-hearted effort to elect Governor Mitt Romney as the next President of the United States.”
In a complaint to the IRS sent today, the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, requested an investigation. Lynn noted that federal law forbids non-profit churches from intervening in elections. He also pointed out that IRS rules specifically state that tax-exempt entities may not reprint endorsements made by other groups and people.
“This is an audacious attempt by a tax-exempt church to intervene in the presidential election,” Lynn said. “This is a church, not a political action committee. It should play by the reasonable rules that other tax-exempt organizations follow.”
Americans United’s Project Fair Play encourages religious organizations to learn about the provisions of federal tax law. When churches or other religious groups flagrantly violate the law, AU files complaints with the IRS.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.