FFRF calls on IRS to investigate church, Trump adviser

1PaulaWhite

FFRF, a national church/state watchdog, is calling on the IRS to immediately investigate a Texas church’s illegal campaign meddling.

Eagle Mountain International Church in Newark, Texas, has been actively electioneering — endorsing a political party to its flock — and mistakenly stating that the IRS will not stop it from doing so “because our president did that for us.”

“I can say that to you without any fear that the IRS is going to take away your right to donate to this church and deduct it from your taxes. And without you being audited because of it. That’s over!” Terri Pearsons told the congregation. “And that’s because our president did that for us.”

“Amen!” White affirmed on several occasions. George Pearsons then promoted church events regarding the election and added, “We are using the voice that God has given us, and the muzzle is off. The muzzle is off! And it’s not going back on either!”

Under what is known as the Johnson Amendment, IRS regulations restrict 501(c)(3) organizations, which includes churches and other religious organizations, from “[participating or intervening in] … any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

“There is no question that this endorsement of the Republican Party, aimed specifically at the 2018 midterm elections (now less than two months away), was done by senior church leaders, during a formal church service, in their capacity as church leaders,” writes FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert.

FFRF is also sending a copy of this letter to Paula White and hopes that she will recognize her mistake and stop encouraging churches to violate federal law.

The mistake could be the result of the dinner party Trump hosted for evangelical leaders, including White, in August. Trump lied to the group, saying that he had repealed the Johnson Amendment.

“Now, one of the things I’m most proud of is getting rid of the Johnson Amendment … In the last 18 months alone, we have stopped the Johnson Amendment from interfering with your First Amendment rights,” Trump deceitfully said at the dinner. He also claimed that he had repealed the Johnson Amendment in a 2017 “religious liberty” executive order.

In actuality, FFRF sued Trump over that 2017 executive order, and the Department of Justice admitted in court filings twice that Trump’s order did not and could not repeal a congressional statute

“The order does not exempt religious organizations from the restrictions on political campaign activity applicable to all tax-exempt organizations,” Trump’s lawyers conceded. FFRF dismissed its lawsuit against Trump after his own attorneys admitted that he lied.

FFRF is requesting that the IRS commence an immediate investigation into these violations. The IRS does not make the results of any such investigation public.

“The conspiracy between Trump and the Religious Right to deceive Americans is both immoral and illegal,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “If anything, this serves as an advertisement for the need to buttress that besieged wall of separation between religion and government.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national organization with more than 32,000 members across the country, including 1,300-plus members in Texas. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

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.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

FFRF privacy statement