A Minnesota church whose pastor endorsed several political candidates during an Oct. 17 sermon should be investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Americans United today filed a formal complaint with the IRS over the action of Berean Bible Baptist Church in Hastings. Church pastor Brad Brandon endorsed Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer and several other candidates from the pulpit yesterday.
“Pastor Brandon has pulled his tax-exempt church into partisan politics in blatant violation of federal law,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “This a clear-cut case, and the IRS should act.”
A reporter with the Minnesota Independent attended the service and reported that Brandon endorsed Emmer and several other candidates for U.S. Congress and state offices. Brandon also distributed a flier listing the candidates that the church has endorsed.
Brandon concluded the Sunday morning church service by stating, “This has been recorded, taped this morning. We are not shy about what we are doing. In fact we are very, very bold in what we are doing. I am not violating the IRS code 501(c)(3). I don’t consider myself violating that, but I do consider myself exercising my free speech.”
But Americans United says Brandon is wrong. Federal law prohibits 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, including houses of worship, from intervening in elections by endorsing or opposing candidates.
“The leadership of this church knowingly chose to violate the law,” Lynn said. “In my view, the church should lose its tax-exempt status.”
In a letter to the IRS sent today, Lynn wrote, “I urge you to investigate this matter and fully enforce our laws.”
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.