In the comments on this post, “David” offers a URL and says, “If you want a clear example of churches violating IRS rules it doesn’t get much clearer than this.” The URL in question is from the Houston Chronicle, concerns the upcoming mayoral election, and yes, it doesn’t get much clearer than the opposition to a candidate by churches:
A cluster of socially conservative Houstonians is planning a campaign to discourage voters from choosing City Controller Annise Parker in the December mayoral runoff because she is a lesbian, according to multiple ministers and conservatives involved in the effort.
The group is motivated by concerns about a “gay takeover” of City Hall, given that two other candidates in the five remaining City Council races are also openly gay, as well as national interest driven by the possibility that Houston could become the first major U.S. city to elect an openly gay woman.
Another primary concern is that Parker or other elected officials would seek to overturn a 2001 city charter amendment that prohibits the city from providing benefits to the domestic partners of gay and lesbian employees.
“The bottom line is that we didn’t pick the battle, she did, when she made her agenda and sexual preference a central part of her campaign,” said Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council, numbering more than 200 senior pastors in the Greater Houston area. “National gay and lesbian activists see this as a historic opportunity. The reality is that’s because they’re promoting an agenda which we believe to be contrary to the concerns of the community and destructive to the family.”
Welch said he had “no doubt” there would be numerous independent advocacy efforts urging voters not to choose Parker, most of which would involve mail.
Yeah, there are issues involved, but the open opposition to a specific candidate (partially as a result of her sexual orientation, no less) strikes me as being in blatant defiance of the IRS standard. It isn’t just endorsements of candidates that is prohibited, but specific opposition to one (especially when there are only two, at which point the opposition becomes de facto endorsement of the other candidate). Houston’s pastors are free to speak out about issues connected to homosexuality all they want, but they should keep out of the business of trumpeting what they think of specific candidates.
UPDATE: The question has been raised whether the Houston Area Pastors Council is, in fact, a tax exempt organization. It is.