Divine intervention fails to save campaign

Iowa pastor illegally endorses Bachmann from pulpit?

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service over questionable campaign intervention activities at Jubilee Family Church in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

FFRF is a national state/church watchdog group with over 17,000 members nationwide, including more than 150 in Iowa.

Rep. Michele Bachmann appeared at Jubilee Family Church in what appears to be a quest to garner last-minute votes, days before the Iowa Republican Caucus. On Jan. 1, she arrived to a church crowd bearing, "Bachmann for President" signs and buttons. A table at the back of the church displayed election material.

Bachmann spoke at the church during a typical Sunday worship service. Both Pastor Bill Tvedt and Bachmann addressed the crowd with a mixture of campaign rhetoric and prayer. Tvedt's final remarks to Bachmann were, "God bless you, you're awesome."

"Pastor Bill Tvedt inappropriately used his position as pastor of Jubilee Family Church to intervene in a political campaign. He violated IRS regulations by voicing his support for Michele Bachmann," wrote FFRF Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Markert in a letter to the IRS.

The race for the Republican nomination had been a topic of interest at Jubliee Family Church for several weeks prior to the Iowa Caucus. Tvedt had previously personally endorsed Bachmann and had given a politically themed sermon series, "Spirit of Big Government." He also urged the congregation to "Choose a Leader of Biblical Standards."

No church statement indicated other Republican candidates had ever been invited to address the congregation.

The IRS strictly prohibits 501(c)(3) organizations, which include churches and other religious organizations, from taking part in political campaigns.

"Bachmann's appearance at an official church function, a Sunday worship service, and Pastor Tvedt's remarks before and after her speech constitute illegal campaign intervention," noted Markert.

Video footage taken after the service (available on C-SPAN) captured Bachmann lobbying for votes: "I'm glad you came this morning I'd love to have your vote on the third."

"FFRF respectfully requests that the IRS commence an immediate investigation to determine whether Pastor Tvedt violated IRS regulations prohibiting Jubilee Family Church from participating in and/or intervening in a political campaign," wrote Markert.
 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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