AU Reports Pa. Church To IRS For Politicking

A church’s intervention in the Harrisburg, Pa., mayoral election should be investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, according to Americans United.

During a service at Bethel Village AME Church, Pastor Martin D. Odom introduced Democratic candidate Linda Thompson to the congregation, remarking, “She is a person who knows the ins and outs of city government. Won’t you put your hands together and give God some praise for our city council president and the next mayor of the city of Harrisburg, the Honorable Linda Thompson?”

A local radio station aired an audio clip of the service on Oct. 30. Thompson used the occasion to address charges of financial problems that had been raised against her during the campaign.

After hearing the recording, AU filed a complaint with the IRS. Federal tax law prohibits houses of worship and other tax-exempt organizations from endorsing candidates for public office. AU asserted that the church’s hosting of a campaign speech by one candidate and Odom’s endorsement appear to violate tax law.

“This was a clear attempt by a church to promote a candidate,” said Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “Hailing a candidate as the ‘the next mayor’ is fine rhetoric for a political rally, but it has no place emanating from a pulpit.”