AU Blasts Religious Right Leader Dobson's Campaign To Build Church-based Political Machine

Drive To Politicize Evangelical Pulpits During Fall Elections Jeopardizes Church Tax Exemptions, Warns AU'S Lynn

Religious Right leader James Dobson’s drive to build a church-based political machine will jeopardize the tax exemption of participating congregations, warns Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In a recent e-mail alert to supporters, Dobson’s Focus on the Family (FOF) said it will work with eight state affiliates to mobilize evangelical Christian voters before the November elections. States targeted include Pennsylvania, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, Minnesota, Montana and Tennessee.

The Dobson campaign has all the trappings of a traditional political machine. FOF’s state affiliates plan to name coordinators for each county who will supervise church coordinators in each evangelical congregation. FOF’s church coordinators will prod pastors to speak about political issues, conduct voter-registration drives and disseminate “voter guides and get-out-the-vote efforts.”

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, says houses of worship should reject Dobson’s scheme.

“This is a blatant effort by Dobson to build a partisan political machine based in churches,” said Lynn. “He has made it abundantly clear that electing Republicans is an integral part of his agenda, and he doesn’t mind risking the tax exemption of churches in the process. Dobson wants to be a major political boss, and this is his way to get there.

“Congregations should not fall prey to Dobson’s shameless partisan schemes,” Lynn continued. “The Internal Revenue Service has promised swift and sure enforcement of federal tax law this year, and pastors should be aware of the danger to their churches’ tax exemption.”

Lynn noted that the IRS has ramped up its efforts to ensure that nonprofits, including houses of worship, abide by federal tax law, which prohibits all nonprofits from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office.

IRS Tax Commissioner Mark W. Everson has delivered two major speeches this year putting nonprofits on notice that the agency has heightened its scrutiny of their actions surrounding the 2006 elections. Everson’s speeches followed a report by the agency showing that many of the nonprofits being investigated for violations during the last election cycle are churches.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.