Churches’ role in local election prompts calls for investigations

Voters in West Texas have decisively rejected three conservative Christian candidates who campaigned on infusing religious values into local decision-making. But the support the candidates received from local churches during the race has prompted calls for state and federal investigations and triggered a local political reckoning.

“I think there should definitely be some penalties,” said Weldon Hurt, a two-term Abilene City Council member who won his race for mayor against one of the candidates. “I don’t know how severe it should be, but I think there has to be a way to curtail this from happening again,” he added. “I think there should be some discipline to these churches.”

ProPublica and The Texas Tribune reported a day before the May 6 election that three churches had donated a total of $800 to the campaign of Scott Beard, a pastor who was running for City Council. That was a clear violation of the Johnson Amendment, a law passed in 1954 by Congress prohibiting nonprofits from intervening in political campaigns. The IRS can revoke the tax exemption of violators, but there’s only one publicly known example of it doing so, nearly 30 years ago.

Beard, a senior pastor at Fountaingate Fellowship, said the donations were a mistake and that he would be returning the money. But within days after Beard’s defeat to retired Air Force Col. Brian Yates, a national group that espouses the separation of church and state demanded that the IRS revoke the churches’ tax exemptions.

“Beard is insisting that he has returned the donation checks, but his belated attempt at contrition doesn’t mitigate the initial transgressions” of the churches making the donations, the Freedom from Religion Foundation wrote in a news release. The group has sued the IRS in the past “to force it to take steps to enforce the law against tax-exempt entities from engaging in partisan politicking, and is prepared to sue again if necessary.”

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Author: HP McLovincraft

Seeker of rabbit holes. Pessimist. Libertine. Contrarian. Your huckleberry. Possibly true tales of sanity-blasting horror also known as abject reality. Prepare yourself. Veteran of a thousand psychic wars. I have seen the fnords. Deplatformed on Tumblr and Twitter.

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