The pastor of an evangelical church in Albuquerque is under scrutiny for endorsing a candidate for city council from the pulpit during a church service.

In late November, Pastor Steve Smothermon of Legacy Church told attendees at the service to vote for Lori Robertson, reported KOAT-TV.

“Listen, early voting is open now,” Smothermon said. “Go vote till Dec. 4th because we need people like her on the city council.”

Robertson, who was attending the service at the time, insisted that Smothermon had done nothing wrong.

“He said I, personally, would vote for her, but that’s up to you,” Robertson said, adding that Robertson told the congregation, “She will be in the lobby to answer any questions, and you can talk to her and find out if she’s somebody you would like to vote for.”

Tammy Fiebelkorn, Robertson’s opponent in the Dec. 7 runoff election, criticized the endorsement.

“I would never set up a informational table for an election in a church lobby under any circumstances because there is a separation of church and state,” Fiebelkorn said. “Churches are 501(c)(3) nonprofits and should not be engaging in political discourse like that.”

Federal law states that religious and secular organizations holding 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status may not intervene in partisan politics by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office.

Fiebelkorn easily defeated Robertson in the runoff election, winning 62 percent of the vote.

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