The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed a report with the Internal Revenue Service over illegal political campaigning by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).
BGEA, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, has run full-page ads publicizing Billy Graham's call for the electorate to “vote biblical values.” The ads have appeared in several "swing state" newspapers in preparation for tomorrow's heated presidential election. Throughout the month of October, BGEA published articles favorable to Romney, which included a statement by Billy Graham: "What impresses me even more than Gov. Romney’s successful career are his values and strong moral convictions."
"The context of the ads and publications by BGEA evidence its intent to endorse candidate Mitt Romney," wrote FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor in an Oct. 31 letter to the IRS.
"Tax exempt non-profit groups are to be conducted with educational and charitable purposes, not for the purpose of political campaign advocacy. When non-profit groups become involved in political elections, they should be investigated and lose their tax-exempt status," said Gaylor.
Gaylor noted that BGEA had $122 million in net assets in 2011 and spent over $3.5 million on advertising and promotion.
Revs. Billy and Franklin Graham met with Romney on Oct. 11. It was reported that Billy Graham told Romney: "I'll do all I can to help you. And you can quote me on that."
A week after the Oct. 11 meeting, BGEA began publishing full-page political ads in national and local newspapers. The ads state that they are paid for by the BGEA and feature a large photograph of Billy Graham. One version of the ad reads:
"On November 6, the day before my 94th birthday, our nation will hold one of the most critical elections in my lifetime. We are at a crossroads and there are profound moral issues at stake. I strongly urge you to vote for candidates who support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and woman, protect the sanctity of life and defend our religious freedoms. The Bible speaks clearly on these crucial issues. Please join me in praying for America, that we will turn our hearts back toward God."
FFRF contends that the BGEA activities constitute campaign intervention even though they have not explicitly used the word "endorsement."
"Billy Graham and his association have attempted to skirt restrictions on their non-profit status and use their vast resources to intervene in political campaigns," Gaylor added.