Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, wrote the IRS to complain that independent Baptist pastor Charles Worley’s incendiary remarks that went viral on YouTube violated a federal law that says churches that receive non-profit tax benefits cannot take sides in partisan politics.
By Bob Allen
Americans United for Separation of Church and State has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether a North Carolina pastor’s sermon suggesting that gays and lesbians should be quarantined and allowed to die off that went viral in YouTube clips violated federal tax law.
Barry Lynn, a United Church of Christ minister and executive director of the Washington-based church/state watchdog organization, said May 23 that independent Baptist Pastor Charles Worley’s May 13 sermon at Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, N.C., violated federal tax law that prohibits churches and other 501(c)(3) nonprofits from intervening in elections on behalf of or opposed to any candidate for public office.
Lynn said that while many of Worley’s remarks were repugnant, the line “I ain’t gonna vote for a baby killer and a homosexual lover” clearly urged congregations to vote against President Obama in the upcoming election.
“When the top official of a religious organization – the chief pastor of the church – issues an appeal to congregants from the pulpit during a worship service in the strongest possible terms to vote against a candidate, it is clearly intervention in an election,” Lynn wrote in his letter to the director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, Lois Lerner.
Lynn said church leaders seem to realize the sermon was problematic, because it was removed from the church website, but is still widely available online at YouTube.
“I believe Pastor Worley’s comments represent a clear violation of federal law,” Lynn wrote. “I urge you to investigate this matter.”
Americans United seeks to educate houses of worship about federal tax law and partisan politics in a campaign called Project Fair Play. When AU believes churches or other religious groups flagrantly violate the law, the organization files complaints with the IRS.