Beliefnet
God-O-Meter

huckabee4.jpgHis call for abolishing the IRS is one of Mike Huckabee’s biggest applause lines. But might everyone’s least favorite agency clamp down on churches that are enthusiastic about Huckabee before he has a chance to shut it down? The Politico reported last night that the IRS has been stepping up enforcement of its rules prohibiting tax-exempt groups like churches from making candidate endorsements and engaging in other types of partisan politicking.
Here’s the gist of it:

Huckabee’s Iowa surge is driven largely by an eleventh-hour rally of Christian activists behind the Republican’s candidacy, and that’s certain to draw attention from tax sleuths and others.
“We will be watching it very closely,” says Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which is also monitoring Democrat Barack Obama’s latest round of church visits in the African-American community.
Already, Americans United has filed two complaints with the IRS accusing Huckabee’s religious backers outside Iowa of violating their tax-free status.
One of them, the Rev. Wiley S. Drake, of the First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif., responded in a rather unorthodox way — urging followers to pray for the deaths of Barry W. Lynn, Joe Conn and Jeremy Leaming, the Americans United officials who filed the IRS complaint.
Drake’s alleged misstep was using church stationery to endorse Huckabee.
A second complaint, filed against Jerry Falwell Jr., accuses the son of the late Moral Majority founder of violating Liberty University’s tax status by using the school’s resources to announce his endorsement of Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher.
The two cases should put a host of Iowa church officials on notice as they join a coalition of home-schooling families working to secure a headline-grabbing, first-primary victory for the former Arkansas governor.

For what it’s worth, God-o-Meter seriously doubts complaints being lodged against pro-Huckabee churches will deter other churches from following suit. The IRS takes months, sometimes years, to rule on such cases, and even then almost never goes so far as to withdraw a church’s tax-exempt status. For better or worse, churches have little reason to worry about serious repercussions from Uncle Sam.


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