Churches that distribute the Christian Coalition's biased "voter guides" this Sunday will be reported to the Internal Revenue Service, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has announced.
"The vast majority of churches play by the rules," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "Those who refuse to do so should expect a visit from the IRS."
Coalition guides, says Americans United, are clearly stacked to favor Republican candidates. Democrats are portrayed as opposing the Christian Coalition's stand on issues while GOP office seekers are shown as supporting it.
"The Christian Coalition employs a variety of tricks to twist these guides to make it quite clear which candidate the group favors," said AU's Lynn. "They are campaign propaganda, and as such may not legally be distributed by churches."
Federal tax law states that churches, as non-profit, tax-exempt bodies, may not intervene in partisan campaigns, including endorsing or opposing any candidate for public office. They also may not distribute biased voter guides.
Lynn said Christian Coalition officials have been working hard to convince conservative Christian ministers that the voter guides have been cleared for in-church distribution.
"Pastors should not to be misled," said Lynn. "The Federal Election Commission is currently suing the Christian Coalition for illegal involvement in politics, and the IRS is conducting an audit of the Coalition to determine its tax status."
The AU director also noted that the Christian Broadcasting Network, the television arm of Coalition Chairman Pat Robertson, had its tax exemption retroactively revoked by the IRS for the years 1986-87 for unlawful politicking. Robertson, he noted, is hardly in a position to advise church leaders on this matter.
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.