The IRS must immediately take action against a politicking Arizona church that is openly challenging the tax agency, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is demanding.
The Redeemer Apostolic Church in Mesa, Ariz., has recently been involved in blatant electioneering. The church hosted Pastor Joshua Feuerstein to perform a prayer revival event on Feb. 4. At this event, Feuerstein openly endorsed Jerone Davison’s candidacy for the U.S. Congress. Feuerstein even acknowledged that his endorsement of Davison was illegal and dared the IRS to take action against him:
Stay standing with me. I’m going to do something illegal. The IRS tells me that because I’m a preacher, then I’m legally not allowed to endorse a candidate … I’m just going to say this and broadcast it around the world, and I’m going to look the IRS right in the face: “My name is Joshua Feuerstein, the founder of America’s Revival, and tonight I officially endorse Jerone Davison for Congress of the United States of America.” And let me say to the IRS: “Come at me, bro.”
Redeemer Apostolic Church also allowed Davison to address the audience to promote his campaign.
The church’s actions are audaciously illegal, FFRF emphasizes.
“IRS regulations specify that 501(c)(3) organizations, which include churches and other religious organizations, are prohibited from ‘[participating in or intervening in] . . . any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office,’” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to the IRS. “Pastor Feuerstein knowingly and flippantly disregarded the law by endorsing Davison.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) and it takes this designation, along with the accompanying benefits and responsibilities, very seriously. By inviting Feuerstein and allowing him to publicly endorse a candidate for public office during one of its events — while flagrantly taunting the IRS — Redeemer Apostolic Church has made it clear that it is not interested in the benefits of tax-exempt status. The IRS must ensure that the Redeemer Apostolic Church is no longer receiving the benefits of 501(c)(3) status and that donations made to the church are no longer treated as tax deductible.
Contributions to political campaigns are not tax deductible, and tax-exempt entities are essentially subsidized by the public, two excellent reasons why the IRS forbids electioneering by churches and other (c)(3) entities. In the case of churches, they are exempted from filing Form 990 returns, which account to the IRS and the public what secular nonprofits do with tax-exempt donations, making it even more important that churches toe the line.
“Churches are so brazen in their violation of tax-exemption rules that preachers are now openly issuing challenges to the IRS,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “Unless the tax authorities forcefully respond, religious institutions will continue to gleefully flout the law.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 37,000 members and several chapters across the country, including nearly 1,000 members and a local chapter in Arizona. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.