Elections Threat By D.C. Clergy Raises Tax Issues

A small band of clergy in Washington, D.C., received reminders May 6 that church-based partisan politicking is illegal, courtesy of Americans United.

Anti-gay clergy vowed that they will work to oust members of the District of Columbia Council who voted to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, according to a report by The Washington Post. The ministers and their supporters became so disruptive that police had to intervene.

The Washington Times reported that the Rev. Anthony Evans, an associate minister at Mount Zion Baptist Church, said the 12 council members who voted for the measure “kissed themselves goodbye.”

One minister even singled out a council member by name for election reprisal.

“Catania first,” the Rev. Charlie Smith said of at-large Councilmember David Catania.

Federal tax law prevents 501(c)(3) non-profit groups, including houses of worship, from intervening in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.

“Religious leaders have the right to speak out for or against same-sex marriage, but they cannot use the resources of their churches to elect or defeat candidates,” said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Uniting houses of worship with partisan politics makes for a bad marriage – and an unlawful one to boot.”