The Religious Right’s relentless campaign to politicize America’s pulpits may take another step forward this weekend.
According to the Minnesota Independent, two of the state’s pastors say they will endorse political candidates from the pulpit this Sunday, directly defying the federal tax law that prohibits churches and other non-profits from becoming involved with elections.
Brad Brandon of Berean Bible Baptist Church in Hastings, Minn. told KKMS radio earlier this week of his plans. He taunted the “liberal media” to file an IRS complaint against his church, asking them to “do it out of hatred for me.”
“I am not going to stop my pursuit of taking on the IRS,” Brandon told listeners on Tuesday. “Somebody has to stand up and fight, so I guess it might as well be me. So on October 17, ladies and gentlemen, I am continuing making this the day. I will endorse the candidates here in the state of Minnesota.”
Brandon indicated that he will endorse conservative candidates because he agrees with their positions against gay rights.
“At what point does our responsibility to God trump our responsibility to the government?” asked Brandon. “That’s my question. At what point does that take place? And I have decided that the point is now. Because we have hate crimes out there involving speaking out against homosexuality.”
Joining Brandon this weekend will be Greg Stone of Jesus Assembly of God in St. Peter, Minn., who announced his plans to violate tax law via Facebook.
“This Sunday we’ll talk about keys to overcoming,” he wrote. “We’ll also explain Pulpit Freedom Sunday and explain its relevance to Jesus Assembly – key to something that is about to happen at Jesus Assembly.”
Then he wrote a few days later that he will not be podcasting this sermon like he does the others.
“Tomorrow’s sermon is of such a nature that we will not be posting it on the internet. The same is true about the sermon for Oct 17th. (It is not likely that we will make CD’s available for either sermon.) Sometimes, ‘You just gotta be there.’ :)”
Stone and Brandon, like Iowa Pastor Cary Gordon, are eager to flaunt their law-breaking ways in an attempt to flout the IRS law, which they wrongly believe “silences” the church.
Earlier this week, Gordon, an associate pastor at Cornerstone World Outreach in Sioux City, Iowa, prayed for his church to come under investigation.
“Dear God,” he says, “please allow the IRS to attack my church, so I can take them all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Americans United reported Gordon’s church to the IRS on Sept. 30 after learning of Project Jeremiah, a church-based campaign to encourage voting against three state supreme court judges in a retention election on the Nov. 2 ballot.
All this grandstanding is sad, particularly considering that most houses of worship, including evangelical churches, do not believe religious organizations should be involved with elections. They know their free speech remains unfettered; they just can’t turn their religious institutions into political action committees while maintaining a tax exemption.
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) in a 2008 survey asked CEOs from 60 evangelical churches, universities and affiliated organizations if their “churches advise parishioners who to vote for.”
The NAE says 59 respondents answered, “No!” – with many actually using an exclamation mark.
Most religious leaders understand why houses of worship should stay out of elections. But for the few that want to make a big stink of it, Americans United will be watching.
Let us know if you see or hear anything. If we get credible evidence, we will file an IRS complaint. For more information or to report a violation, visit AU’s Project Fair Play Web site.