A church-state separation watchdog group is concerned that up to 300 predominantly African American churches in Virginia may be subjected to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) consequences if they choose to showcase a political campaign video for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe featuring Vice President Kamala Harris during its worship services from Sunday through election day on November 2.
Vice President Harris is currently endorsing McAuliffe, a pro-abortion Democrat who is struggling against businessman Glenn Youngkin for the position.
According to the Christian Post, the secular advocacy organization called Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which advocates for a strict separation of church and state, expressed disapproval through Rob Boston, the group's Senior Adviser. He argued that any elected official who is campaigning for a political candidate during a worship service is at odds with the Johnson Amendment. This measure is a U.S. tax code that prevents non-profit entities and churches from endorsing political candidates.
"The Johnson Amendment protects the integrity of tax-exempt nonprofit groups, including houses of worship, by ensuring they don't endorse or oppose candidates for public office. No one wants their charities and houses of worship to be torn apart by partisan campaign politics," Boston explained. "Playing a video during services that urges people to vote for a specific candidate would raise concerns about violating the Johnson Amendment."
In the video, Vice President Harris declared, "I believe that my friend Terry McAuliffe is the leader Virginia needs at this moment," citing his "long track record of getting things done for the people of Virginia."
Boston underscored how playing such a video that urges people to vote for a certain candidate, during worship services would "raise concerns about violating the Johnson Amendment." He added that churches and other non-profit organizations are barred from intervening in partisan elections.
Attorney and political commentator Jonathan Turley wrote for Fox News that the IRS does not tolerate violations against the Johnson Amendment, which may "result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes."
As per NOQ Report, Turley described it as a "premeditated and unambiguous violation of the federal law," one that is biased towards the left. Turley said that it was "hypocritical" of the Democratic Party to use the opposition to the Johnson Amendment by former President Donald Trump as criticism in the November 2020 elections.
He argued that President Trump's order required adherence to federal law but stated that "moral or political issues" may be discussed "from a religious perspective." In this case, Vice President Harris was not discussing "moral or political issues...from a religious perspective" but was outright endorsing McAuliffe for the position of governor of Virginia.
Despite believing that the video was a clear violation of federal laws, Boston remarked that the IRS "has not been particularly vigilant in enforcing [the Johnson Amendment] in recent years." He added, however, that the measure "serves a vital function" of protecting such organizations and the American election system.