Robert Jeffress endorsed Rick Perry Friday, but it's the gift that keeps on giving. As in: The Americans United for Separation of Church and State has sent a letter today to the Internal Revenue Service insisting that the First Baptist Dallas pastor's endorsement, and subsequent postings of videos to the First Baptist website, have violated federal election laws and put its tax-exempt status at risk. Writes Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, "Jeffress seems to be operating under the belief that he can post these endorsements as long as he includes some type of disclaimer." Which, far as Lynn is concerned, is nonsense.
The letter is part of a press release that adds this:
Lynn pointed out that an IRS publication called "Election Year Activities and the Prohibition on Political Campaign Intervention for Section 501(c)(3) Organizations" warns churches and other nonprofits to be careful about what they post on their websites. The IRS states, "A web site is a form of communication. If an organization posts something on its web site that favors or opposes a candidate for public office, the organization will be treated the same as if it distributed printed material, oral statements or broadcasts that favored or opposed a candidate."
This isn't Jeffress' first brush with this issue. In 1998, while serving as pastor of the First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls, Texas, Jeffress checked out two books with gay themes from the local public library and refused to return them. He then urged members of his congregation to vote against city council members if they refused to ban the tomes. A local newspaper reported that Jeffress challenged his congregation to "vote out the infidels who would deny God and his word."
Read the letter here.
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Update at 8:27 p.m.: This just in from Jeffress via his Facebook page:
Tomorrow morning at 7am CT, I'll be on NBC's Today Show talking about the marginalization of faith in the presidential campaign and the importance of understanding the relationship between a candidate's core religious beliefs and their ability to lead.
Well, that's what they told him, anyway. Tomorrow's lead-off item, in case you hadn't guessed.