As the campaign season winds down, some houses of worship continue to intervene in partisan politics in inappropriate and possibly illegal ways, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Americans United today asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate events that appeared to be efforts to boost the candidacy of Sen. John F. Kerry at two churches in "swing states" on Oct. 24.
In Pennsylvania, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy spoke on Kerry's behalf at the Mount Airy Church of God in Christ in Philadelphia.
The church's pastor, Ernest C. Morris Sr., followed Kennedy at the podium and said, "I can't tell you who to vote for, but I can tell you what my mamma told me last week: Stay out the Bushes."
The same morning, Democratic Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards appeared at Allen Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cincinnati. Edwards gave an eight-minute speech and then was endorsed by the church's pastor, Donald H. Jordan Sr.
"I'm not worried about the law," Jordan said. Referring to Edwards, he added, "I'm asking you to support him." Jordan also added his belief that Edwards would one day be president.
Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn said the events looked to be obvious efforts to influence the outcome of the election, a clear violation of federal tax law.
"The enthusiasm generated by a close presidential race does not justify violating federal law," Lynn said. "The cases we are reporting to the IRS today are especially egregious because the pastors apparently know what the law says yet chose to violate it anyway."
Concluded Lynn, "We urge the IRS to act. Such blatant and open defiance of the law must not be permitted."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State 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 the safeguarding religious freedom.