Oct 30, 2008

The General Baptist State Convention of North Carolina may have violated federal tax law by hosting Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, at an event that appeared to be little more than a campaign rally, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

During her Oct. 29 appearance before the group, Obama praised her husband and told the crowd he is qualified to be president because of his past struggles. “Don’t we deserve a president with that kind of experience?” she asked. “Barack Obama gets it because he’s been there.”

Obama also told the crowd, “I also come here as a wife who loves my husband, and I believe my husband will be an extraordinary president.”

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said the event was not the type of non-partisan activity that churches are permitted to host.

“This was an Obama campaign rally taking place during the meeting of a religious group,” Lynn said. “Federal tax law simply does not allow religious organizations to sponsor events like this.”

In a letter to the IRS today, Lynn requested an investigation of the matter.

“This appearance took on the trappings of a campaign rally, and during it Ms. Obama promoted her husband’s candidacy and appealed for votes,” wrote Lynn in the letter.

Americans United maintains a special initiative, Project Fair Play, designed to educate religious leaders about the requirements of federal tax law. In cases of egregious violations of the law, AU asks the IRS to intervene.

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.