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Americans United advises Houses of Worship to refrain from “pulpit politicking”

Church-State watchdog group sends 100,000 letters to religious leaders nationwide

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is advising houses of worship nationwide to respect federal tax law and stay out of partisan politics.

Americans United announced today that 100,000 letters have been mailed to clergy and lay leaders reminding them that federal tax law prohibits tax-exempt entities, including houses of worship, from endorsing candidates.

“Houses of worship are supposed to tend to spiritual needs and do charitable work, not act as political action committees,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “Our letter reminds religious leaders about what the law requires, why it makes sense and how it could affect them.”

The AU letters were sent to a broad cross-section of Christian denominations, as well as a selection of synagogues and mosques.

“The vast majority of clergy of all faiths reject the idea that houses of worship should be politicized. But misguided religious and political forces persist in pressuring religious leaders to violate federal tax law. We urge clergy to just say no.” ~~ Rev. Barry W. Lynn

The mass mailing comes on the heels of a project by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Religious Right legal group, which last month urged evangelical Christian pastors to violate the law by endorsing or opposing candidates from the pulpit. Reportedly, 33 pastors took part in the ADF effort; Americans United has already filed complaints with the IRS about seven of them.

In addition to its mass mailing to houses of worship, Americans United is making various resources about church politicking available to religious leaders and laypeople through a Web site it created called projectfairplay.org.

Several recent polls, Lynn noted, have shown a majority of Americans opposing pulpit politicking. Americans of all political persuasions and faith backgrounds are increasingly saying they want their houses of worship to unite people, not divide them by introducing partisan politics.

“Church-based electioneering drives wedges into congregations, violates federal tax law and distracts from the true mission of the religious community,” Lynn said. “It’s a bad deal all around.”

About the Author: 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.


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