January 16, 2006
More on Ohio’s rampant religious right:
A group of religious leaders has sent a complaint to the Internal Revenue Service requesting an investigation of two large churches in Ohio that they say are improperly campaigning on behalf of a conservative Republican running for governor.
In their complaint, the clergy members contend that the two Columbus-area churches, Fairfield Christian Church and the World Harvest Church, which were widely credited with getting out the Ohio vote for President Bush in 2004, have allowed their facilities to be used by Republican organizations, promoted the candidate, J. Kenneth Blackwell, among their members and otherwise violated prohibitions on political activity by tax-exempt groups.
Both churches denied that any of their activities violated limitations on nonprofit political activity. “We endorse values, but not candidates,” said the Rev. Russell Johnson, Fairfield’s leader.
… Thirty-one clergy members representing a variety of Christian and Jewish denominations signed the complaint, which was shown to the news media on Sunday. Rabbi Harold J. Berman said he had signed because he was concerned that the line between church and state was becoming blurred. “I think government is clearly impaired when churches get too actively involved in government,” he said, “and I think religion gets impaired when government acts in religious affairs.”
… The complaint questions, for example, how the Ohio Restoration Project, a nonprofit organization led by Mr. Johnson, Fairfield’s leader, obtained charitable status when among its stated purposes are to support and promote legislation. The group has said its goal is to create an army of “Patriot Pastors” to help increase the participation of church members in this year’s statewide elections.
Clearly a non-partisan initiative.
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