October 28, 2010
Sun City Christian Center Violated Federal Law, Says Watchdog Organization
The Internal Revenue Service should investigate a Wimauma, Fla., church whose pastor endorsed a slate of Republican candidates during Sunday services, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
In a complaint filed with the IRS today, Americans United noted that Pastor Arlen Beck of Sun City Christian Center told congregants on Oct. 24 that he had prepared a list of candidates that he intends to vote for and placed copies of the list in the back of the church for their use.
Beck’s actions were reported in the St. Petersburg Times, which quoted an attendee who was offended by Beck’s endorsements.
According to the Times, Beck said, “If you’re conservative you might want to pick one of those up. If you’re liberal you might not want to stop by there.”
Beck later told the newspaper that he does not care if the IRS revokes his church’s tax exemption.
Federal law states that all 501(c)(3) organizations, which includes houses of worship, must refrain from intervening in politics by endorsing or opposing candidates for public office as a condition of receiving tax exemption.
“Pastor Beck is dragging his church into a partisan swamp,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “He has no right to do this while claiming tax-exempt status.”
In a letter to the IRS delivered today, Lynn requested an investigation of the 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.