Irs Should Investigate Florida Church For Hosting Democratic Rally, Says Americans United

Aug. 29 Event Featuring DNC Chair McAuliffe, Other Democrats, May Have Violated Federal Tax Law, Watchdog Group Says

A Miami church that hosted a Democratic rally Aug. 29 should be investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Americans United today asked the IRS to investigate the New Birth Baptist Church, which hosted a rally featuring speeches by Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and former Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton.

During his remarks, McAuliffe attacked Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush, telling the crowd, “Bush has misled us for four years and will not mislead us the next four years. Get out and vote, and we’ll send Bush back to Texas.”

Sharpton, addressing the crucial role Florida played in the 2000 election, remarked, “Didn’t nobody give us the right to vote. People lost their lives. We can’t sit here 40 years later and let somebody buy the vote, somebody hustle the vote, pimp the vote. We’ve got to win Florida.”

Local Democratic officeholders also attended the rally, including U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, state Sen. Frederica Wilson and state Sen. M. Mandy Dawson.

The Sun-Sentinel noted that the church’s pastor, Bishop Victor T. Curry, “made no apologies for turning his Sunday service into a political rally….”

Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn said the church-based partisan rally seems to be a clear violation of federal tax law that bars houses of worship and other 501(c)(3) tax-exempt groups from intervening in political campaigns.

“Americans do not want to see houses of worship turned into partisan political conventions,” said Lynn. “It violates tax law, and it undercuts the integrity and purpose of religious organizations. I urge the IRS to open an investigation of this church’s activities.”

In his letter to the IRS, Lynn noted that churches may engage in non-partisan forms of voter education and register people to vote. The rally at New Birth Baptist Church, he said, went far beyond that.

“This event seems to have gone beyond legitimate voter education about issues,” observed the Lynn letter. “Rather, the event was partisan in its approach and included only Democrats. It promoted Democratic candidates while disparaging Republicans. I believe this event constitutes intervention in a political campaign on behalf of a candidate in clear violation of federal tax law. I urge you to take appropriate action to correct this abuse of the law.”

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.