A Dallas church whose pastor posted videos of himself endorsing presidential candidate Rick Perry on the church’s website should face an Internal Revenue Service investigation, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Americans United wrote to the IRS in October, asserting that First Baptist Church of Dallas has run afoul of federal tax law. AU noted that the Rev. Robert Jeffress has the right to offer a personal endorsement of Perry but that he may not put these endorsements on his tax-exempt church’s website.
“Pastor Jeffress is trying to do an end-run around the law,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “The IRS should put a stop to it.”
Jeffress’ troubles began on Oct. 8, when he appeared at a Religious Right gathering in Washington, D.C., called the Values Voter Summit to introduce Perry. During the introduction, Jeffress praised Perry as the best GOP candidate and explained why he believes Perry deserves support.
Jeffress later posted a video of this introduction on the church’s website. He also posted a video of his Oct. 10 appearance on MSNBC’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” during which he repeated the Perry endorsement.
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 was given two books with gay themes from the local public library. He refused to return them and 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.”
At that time, AU’s Lynn wrote to Jeffress to warn him that his actions raised serious legal issues.