An atheist group is demanding that the Internal Revenue Service investigate a rally in support of President Donald Trump which is planned to be held at a Florida church.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation argued in a letter to the IRS that a Miami megachurch is in violation of the Johnson Amendment by hosting the planned Friday rally for Trump who is launching “Evangelicals for Trump” at the event.
Rebecca Markert, the legal director of the nonprofit group that advocates the separation of church and state, claimed that Ministerio Internacional El Rey Jesús (King Jesus International Ministry) is crossing the political line in holding the event.
“FFRF respectfully request that the IRS commence an immediate investigation into King Jesus Ministry’s violation prohibiting 501(c)(3) organizations from participating in and/or intervening in a political campaign,” Markert wrote in a letter to the IRS’s Acting Director of Exempt Organizations Examinations, Mary A. Epps. “The IRS should take appropriate action to remedy any violations that occurred or which continue to occur.”
“While leaders of churches or religious organizations may express their opinions on political matters as individuals, they are, according to this rule, precluded from making ‘partisan comments in official organization publications or at official functions of the organization,’” she wrote.
Markert added that “in urging congregants to come to a political rally, and in hosting the political rally,” Pastor Guillermo Maldonado “inappropriately used [his] religious organization and 501(c)(3) status by intervening in a political campaign.”
The church, she asserted,” violated IRS regulations by seemingly expressing its support for a candidate in the November 2020 presidential election.”
Maldonado, a Honduran evangelical pastor, invited his parishioners to the event which will include over 70 Evangelical leaders. He sought to quell fears raised by many of the church’s members who are undocumented immigrants.
“You don’t have to be a citizen. And I will give you an affirmation as your spiritual father and your pastor,” he said during a church service on Sunday, according to The Miami Herald. “I ask you: Do you think I would do something where I would endanger my people? I’m not that dumb.”
“I don’t think the president would do such a thing,” he told parishioners. “Don’t put your race or your nationality over being a Christian. Be mature … If you want to come, do it for your pastor. That’s a way of supporting me.”
Trump announced the “Evangelicals for Trump” group after a biting editorial in a Christian magazine called for his impeachment last month. Christianity Today’s editor-in-chief attacked Trump’s character and his morals in the scathing piece siding with Democrats to remove the president from office.
Rev. Franklin Graham, whose father the late Rev. Billy Graham started the publication, blasted the magazine for being “used by the left for their political agenda.”
Franklin Graham fires back after Christian mag his father founded denounces Trump in stunning op-ed https://t.co/J30YukZwpz
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) December 20, 2019
Meanwhile, the Miami pastor hosting Trump’s event on January 3rd, made it clear that the church was not providing any of the financing or organization for the rally. Those wishing to attend the rally have to pre-register with the Trump campaign. All of the services held at the church, except for a New Year’s Eve mass on Tuesday, were canceled as Secret Service came on the scene too.
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