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Pastor who endorsed Perry accused of breaking tax rule
Pastor Robert Jeffress, who endorsed Rick Perry for President, has violated a tax rule, according to a watchdog group.
October 12th, 2011
04:46 PM ET

Pastor who endorsed Perry accused of breaking tax rule

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Americans United for the Separation of Church and State has sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service accusing Pastor Robert Jeffress of violating the law when he posted his endorsement of presidential hopeful Rick Perry on the First Baptist Church of Dallas website.

Jeffress, the head of First Baptist Church, endorsed Perry at Friday's Values Voter Summit, the same event where he called Mormonism a 'cult.' After the event, Jeffress went on a media blitz and posted a video of himself explaining his comments on the church's website.

The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said when Jeffress posted the endorsement on the church's website, he was offering an endorsement from the church, a violation of IRS rules for tax-exempt organizations like churches.

"The tax code has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to campaigning for candidates," Lynn said. "If you put something on your church website, it is not enough to put a disclaimer on it."

Michael E. Batts, a CPA who has been practicing in the area of tax exempt organizations for more than 25 years and is not a member of the Dallas church, says the rules are not as black and white, though.

"The mere fact that a church might post video on its website of the comments of its pastor in other settings is not cut and dry," Batts said. "A determination would have to be made as to whether the post represents an endorsement by the church or whether it is something else."

The First Baptist Church put a disclaimer on the videos. "The posting of video clips and media accounts of Dr. Robert Jeffress' recent media appearances does not constitute First Baptist Dallas' endorsement of any political candidate," read the disclaimer.

According to the Americans United letter, "the Internal Revenue Service has never said that disclaimers like this ameliorate candidate endorsements or make them permissible."

The letter also cites a warning on the subject from the IRS. According to an IRS publication on tax exempt organizations, "If an organization posts something on its website that favors or opposes a candidate for public office, the organization will be treated the same as if it... favored or opposed a candidate."

Batts, however, says the actual law is not that specific.

"The law says that a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization may not endorse or oppose candidates for political office or intervene in political campaigns," Batts said. "The law is not specific as to facts with that level of granularity."

Lynn said this is only the beginning, however, of his organization's filing of complaints with the IRS.

"I would expect there would be (a) geometric increase in the number of complaints," Lynn said. "This whole election is already so awash in religion."

According to Lynn, Americans United expects to file ten times as many complaints as it did in 2008.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Church and state • Politics • Rick Perry

soundoff (934 Responses)
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    September 9, 2012 at 3:40 am |
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    • Khalel

      Appreciate your thoughts. But let me offer some tnihgs for you to think about. Do you believe that perhaps Adam, Seth, Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac,Jacob and Joseph had God's word revealed to them and that these Prophets were commanded to both teach the people God's will and record these truths in scripture? I would presume yes. But where are their writings? Obviously, for reasons unknown, truths had been lost and misconstrued. These prophets words were

      September 7, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  4. Angela Singleton

    The United States of America gained its independence from British rule in 1776. From that time to 1968, African slaves & their descendants (African Americans) have been cruelly mistreated through imprisonment, lynching & burning. As an African American woman, am I angered by the unjust persecution of my helpless ancestors? ABSOULTELY NOT!! The reason I'm not angry is because Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other Blacks & Whites UNITED to fight against racism & discrimination. TODAY, Americans have UNITED to end PLUTOCRACY (a government ruled by the rich). Together WE STAND AS country; DIVIDED WE ALL FALL!!

    October 18, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  5. rvd

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    October 16, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  6. FormCritic

    NIce how you never see an article that says, "Man Who Endorsed Obama Gets Jail Sentence" or "Company That Obama Worked For Accused of Fraud and Trade Violations?"

    Funny how we never see articles with misleading headlines about Obama, but we read them all the time on CNN when the target is one of his opponents.

    October 16, 2011 at 2:24 am |
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      October 18, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  7. Avser Bastian

    WHITES AREN’T WELCOME IN AMERICA ANY LONGER !!! WE DON’T NEED YOU ANYMORE !!! OUT OF AMERICA WITH WHITES NOW !!!

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xGfYOAydjw&w=640&h=390]
    OR
    http://www.youtube.com/user/BostjanAvsec

    OBAMA'S HEALTH CARE RECORDED LIVE IN 2009. Facts about lunatic Obama/Bush's twilight zone administrations(HORROR) or genocide against white population.

    Make sure to play video from beginning. Just in case http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xleq3o

    THIS INFORMATION WAS PROVIDED TO YOU BY WHITE AMERICAN REFUGEE !!!

    IS IT INDEPENDENCE THAT WE CELEBRATE OR DEPENDENCE (what are your credit card bills or alimony saying about it) !!? HOW IS YOUR DIABETES AND LOST MARRIAGES !!? FORECLOSURES AND JOB SEARCH !!? THAT IS THE QUESTION TO BE OR NOT TO BE !!! IS IT LAND OF THE FREE OR STATE OF TERROR AGAINST OWN WHITE POPULATION !!? IT IS TIME TO LET THEM KNOW WHAT COLOR ARE THE STRIPES ON OUR STAR SPANGLED BANNER !!! TIME TO DETERMINE WHOSE INDEPENDENCE/AMERICA, WE CELEBRATE TODAY(who wants to erase us and denies us the right to exist) !!! IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW WHOM WE ADDRESS WITH "PRESIDENT" (STOP HUMILIATING YOURSELF) !!!

    911 WAS CREATED FOR PEOPLE TO WAKE UP(deliberately by CIA)....HOWEVER, WAKE UP EITHER WHAT IS TRUTH(sanity) OR WAKE UP TO LIES(insanity = with what your self elected governments have brainwashed you when forcefully jobless/persecuted....therefor­­e, I want you to think about "WAKE UP" when watching next time ALEX JONES alike "alternative" news/media = CIA)

    WHEN YOU WAKE UP, I WANT YOU TO WAKE TO YOURSELF AND NOT TO SOMEONE ELSE'S DREAM (ZIONIST/COMMUNIST/LIBERAL DREAM CATCHERS/THIEFS, WHO PLOTTED 911 TO WAKE YOU AFTERWARDS WITH ECONOMIC OPPRESSION IN A WORLD OF LIES !!!)

    HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT TRUTH IS !!? WHATEVER YOU WERE BORN IS WHAT YOU ARE(truth therefore) AND FOR WHATEVER REASONS YOU HAVE CHANGED(distorted yourself) SINCE 9/11 IS WHAT YOU ARE NOT !!!

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    • TheDragon117

      Wow, that statement offers little claims to back up its rather large allegations, it uses the same "fear" tactics you're accusing the current government for. Words like insanity, genocide. What genocide? Vaccines have been given out for over 60 years to save lives, if we were all dying as you state in Genocide, we'd either all be dead, or have stopped taking them. Further our dependance on alimony or credit cards? That is something the people who have the problems caused, don't get married til you know its the right person, don't spend money you don't have. Yeah there are exceptions to this, sometimes someone marries the right person and it just doesn't work out, sometimes you just need money that you don't have. You can't blame the government for that though. Finally how does any of this only apply to "white" people? There really is no race issue in this you threw it in immediately I think that its a reflection of personal views since "whites" are bound by the same rules and laws as everyone else. I think you should look at these facts and see how many are unsubstantiated, wrong, or randomly unrelated to anything you're talking about. This is seriously almost every recent and a few of the old conspiracy nut theories, that never have had any evidence to support them rolled into racial fight. If you want to believe if your conspiracies feel free, but let the race thing go because lord knows we don't need anymore bigots in this world.

      October 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.