A Philadelphia pastor may have violated federal tax law by endorsing George W. Bush from the pulpit of his church during the Republican National Convention last night, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
During the convention, the Rev. Herbert Lusk of Greater Exodus Baptist Church was brought into the convention hall via satellite hookup. Lusk, speaking from his church in North Philadelphia, addressed the cheering delegates and said, "We are supporting Gov. Bush, and we are supporting him because we know that he understands that we must give faith a chance."
Later Lusk added, "Mr. Bush, we are praying for you. Keep the faith. We love you. And we love you because we know that you have a testimony."
In a letter to Charles O. Rossotti, commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn requested an investigation into the matter.
"It appears that Rev. Lusk has violated federal tax law by announcing that 'we' meaning his church are supporting candidate Bush," Lynn wrote. "This seems to be a blatant violation of IRS regulations banning intervention in partisan politics by non-profit groups. Accordingly, I urge you to conduct an investigation into the statements of Rev. Lusk at Greater Exodus Baptist and take whatever steps you deem necessary to make certain that this church obeys the law."
Federal tax law states that churches and other non-profit groups holding a 501(c)(3) status may not endorse or oppose candidates for public office. Groups that violate the standard can lose their tax-exempt status.
"Rev. Lusk is free to endorse any candidate he wants as a private citizen," Lynn said. "But in his official role as pastor of a church he must refrain from engaging in partisan politicking. I hope the IRS takes swift action to correct this outrageous abuse."
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization represents 60,000 members and allied houses of worship in all 50 states.
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.