Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to investigate whether voter guide/legislative scorecards distributed by the Pray in Jesus Name Project violate federal tax code. The project, affiliated with Persuade the World Ministries, has put out voter guides for all 50 states, rating politicians as “Anti-Jesus” or “faith friendly.” Surprisingly, politicians involved in sex scandals, such as Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) and David Vitter (R-LA) are rated as 100% “faith friendly.”
“Federal law prohibits preachers from politicking from the pulpit, but that is exactly what Pray in Jesus Name Project is asking clergy across the country to do,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “Pray in Jesus Name is attempting to use churches to advance its overt political agenda; any churches that go along with this plan and distribute the guides will risk their own tax status in the process.”
According to the Pray in Jesus Name website, the “Shock and Awe Free Voter Guide” is designed to “equip and mobilize” church voters. The site features a picture of Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and states: “How much would you pay to see the ‘shock and awe’ look on the faces of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi this fall?” The project aims to have these voter guides faxed to 120,000 churches for distribution during Sunday services.
Tax law prohibits 501(c)(3) organizations from distributing blatantly partisan voter guides prior to an election. While voter guides may be distributed to educate voters, they can’t be used to attempt to favor or oppose candidates. In considering the legality of voter guides, the IRS has said a key factor is whether the descriptions of the candidates’ positions are neutral, unbiased and represent a complete compilation. In this case, Pray in Jesus Name describes candidates as “pro-abortion,” “pro-homosexual,” and “anti-free speech” – hardly neutral, unbiased descriptions.
“The IRS should investigate whether Pray in Jesus Name is violating its own tax status and warn churches that by distributing the voter guides created this group, they are jeopardizing their own 501(c)(3) status,” said Sloan. “Just as ‘a rose by any other name is still a rose,’ political campaign intervention called voter guides is still political campaign intervention.”
CLICK HERE to read CREW’s letter to the IRS (10/26/10).
CLICK HERE to read the letter of acknowledgment from (11/02/10).
CLICK HERE to read the response letter from the IRS. (11/16/10).