Monday, May 21, 2012

IRS Should Investigate Kentucky Church

IRS Should Investigate Kentucky Church For Opposing Obama Re-Election, Says Americans United

Church-State Watchdog Group Says Baptist Pastor Violated Federal Tax Law By Calling For President’s Ouster During Services

A Kentucky church violated federal law when its pastor demanded the ouster of President Barack Obama during church services, Americans United for Separation of Church and State told the Internal Revenue Service today.

During a May 13 service, Pastor Ronnie Spriggs of Hager Hill Freewill Baptist Church in Hager Hill, Ky., demanded that Obama be voted out of office for supporting marriage equality for same-sex couples.

“You can say that’s political if you want to and blame me if you want to,” Spriggs observed, speaking from the pulpit during a Sunday service, “but I heard our president say something this week that I never thought I’d ever hear a president of the United States say. Did y’all hear that? He said that he believes that gays ought to have the right to marry in the United States. That’s the president of the United States who said that. Amen. I don’t know about you folks, but I’m going on record and I don’t care who knows it. I want the guy out.”

Asserting that “this country can’t afford that kind of ideology in that office,” Spriggs went on to exhort his congregation to get active between now and the November election. He added, “I want you to speak up in these next few months that are to come, and let’s not back this kind of ideology. Let’s get this out of the White House.”

Under federal law, houses of worship and other 501(c)(3) tax-exempt bodies may not intervene in elections by endorsing or opposing candidates.

Observed the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “Religious leaders have every right to address public issues, but they cannot turn their tax-exempt ministries into political action committees. If houses of worship want to be partisan and dive into electoral politics, they ought to give up their tax exemptions.”

In a letter to the IRS sent today, Lynn requested an investigation of the matter. He noted that Spriggs posted the sermon on a Web-based video-sharing service, giving it wider visibility.

“Pastor Spriggs informed his congregation that he wanted to see President Obama ‘out,’ meaning out of office,” wrote Lynn. “He said this twice, and went on to link the issue of same-sex marriage to the November presidential election. His message is clear: Congregants should vote against Obama.”

Added Lynn, “Pastor Spriggs has quite openly stated that Obama should not be re-elected. I believe this is a violation of the law, and I request the IRS investigate 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.

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