Beliefnet
Lynn v. Sekulow

Jay,

I’m not sure if you heard all the ruckus recently coming out of Sioux City, Iowa.

Americans United filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service over a Sioux City church that insists it should receive a tax exemption while still being able to act as a political machine.

We learned Cornerstone World Outreach, a Sioux City congregation, is sponsoring a church-based campaign to unseat three justices from the Iowa Supreme Court. Project Jeremiah, as the church calls it, seeks to defeat the judges because they ruled in favor of extending civil-marriage rights to same-sex couples.



The church had sent out a letter signed by Cornerstone Pastor Cary K.
Gordon, that states, “pastors who join this effort are asked to commit
to confront the injustice and ungodly decisions of the Iowa Supreme
Court by boldly calling upon their flocks to ‘vote no on judicial
retention’ for the three consecutive Sundays prior to Election Day.”

Federal
tax law forbids 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches, from
intervening in elections in support of or opposition to any candidate.

It’s
obvious this church knows, just as we know, that they are violating the
law. Gordon was just begging to be called out. After AU filed its
complaint, he said in a press release:
“So let the battle between state and church begin. True pastors, in the
fashion of Christ, will not and cannot bow before the arrogance of
Caesar and Herod. We have learned from our past mistakes. We will not
repeat the mistake made by Lutheran pastors when confronted with German
fascism.”

Gordon’s response doesn’t make much sense. No one is asking him to “bow” to anyone. It’s simple –
his church receives a tax exemption, and therefore his church must play
by the same rules as all other groups that receive tax exemptions. If
he wants to use his church to tell people how to vote, he’s free to
forgo this benefit pay all his taxes.

Most Americans agree with me. Americans overwhelmingly oppose electioneering by churches. A recent survey
by the Pew Forum found that 70 percent of Americans say churches should
not endorse political candidates. Only 24 percent agree with the ADF.

Even
some pastors in Sioux City cannot support Cornerstone’s actions. The
Rev. Dan Lozer, a pastor of Mayflower Church in Sioux City and
Associated Church in Hawarden, Iowa, told the Journal that he didn’t even read most of the letter he received from Pastor Gordon.

“You
can declare your beliefs. What you can’t do is say, ‘On this ballot
proposition, I want you to vote like this,” he said, agreeing that it’s
a rule he will continue to follow.

And Kristie Arlt,
spokewoman for the Diocese of Sioux City, said the diocese does not
support individual political candidates or parties.

“We focus on issues, not political candidates,” she said.

That’s how it should be. We hope the IRS does its job and sets the Cornerstone pastor straight.

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