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By Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service

Washington – The Internal Revenue Service has concluded that a Southern Baptist pastor’s endorsement of former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was a personal one that does not jeopardize his church’s tax-exempt status.
Pastor Wiley Drake of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif., received a May 12 letter from the IRS about its investigation of his ministry.
“… The IRS has concluded that Buena Park First Southern Baptist Church did not engage in prohibited political campaign intervention,” the IRS concluded in its letter to Drake.
Last August, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a Washington-based watchdog group, urged the IRS to investigate Drake.
Drake, a former second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said Monday (May 19) that he only used information about his church and talk show to identify himself and not as part of an endorsement.
“The church didn’t endorse anybody nor did the radio program,” he said in an interview. “I personally did.”
Drake was assisted by lawyers affiliated with the Alliance Defense Fund and has signed onto the Arizona-based legal group’s new initiative that encourages pastors to challenge IRS rules about discussing political candidates from the pulpit.
“Christians should not be penalized for expressing their beliefs, and that includes pastors,” said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. “We are pleased the IRS recognized that the attempt to have this church’s tax-exempt status revoked was without
merit.”
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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