Irs Should Investigate North Carolina Church That Expelled Democrats, Says Americans United

East Waynesville Baptist Church Immersed In Partisan Activity, Church-State Watchdog Group Charges

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today called on the Internal Revenue Service to investigate a North Carolina church whose pastor garnered national headlines after he expelled several Democrats from the congregation.

Recent actions by Pastor Chan Chandler of the East Waynesville Baptist Church in Waynesville, N.C., are merely indicative of a larger pattern of partisan political activity at the church, Americans United asserts.

Several newspapers and television stations have reported that on Oct. 3, 2004, Chandler told his congregation, "If you vote for John Kerry, you need to repent or resign." Church members told the media that prior to the election, Chandler frequently endorsed President George W. Bush from the pulpit and attacked Kerry.

"Pastor Chandler seems to have confused his church with a Republican Party caucus meeting," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "It's time for the IRS to give him a swift reminder of the laws of the land."

Section 26 U.S.C. 501 (c) (3) of the tax code states that houses of worship and other non-profits may "not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distribution of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office."

In a letter sent to the IRS today, Americans United requested an investigation of the matter. AU noted that during his sermon last Sunday, Chandler was unapologetic for supporting and opposing candidates from the pulpit and promised to keep doing it.

"I believe it is obvious that Pastor Chandler has openly defied federal tax law and is vowing to do so again," Lynn wrote. "I also believe the IRS cannot afford to ignore such blatant disregard for our nation's tax laws, as it sends a signal to others religious leaders that they too can engage in partisan politicking from the pulpit without fear of sanction."

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.