News Analysis Oct 17, 2021 5:15 PM EST

Kamala's endorsement of Terry McAuliffe in more than 300 Virginia churches violates IRS rules

Vice President Kamala Harris has distributed a video campaign endorsement of Virginia Democrat gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe that will be shown to churchgoers Sunday.

Kamala's endorsement of Terry McAuliffe in more than 300 Virginia churches violates IRS rules
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It was reported by CNN that Harris' campaign message, urging voters at black Virginia churches to head out to the polls and cast their ballots for her preferred candidate, will be shown to congregants on Sunday.

Vice President Kamala Harris has distributed a video campaign endorsement of Virginia Democrat gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.

The IRS makes it clear, and has done since 1954, that political campaign activity by churches is not allowed. So how is it permissible for churches to broadcast campaign videos endorsing a specific candidate and encouraging people to go vote for that candidate?

CNN reports of the video, which is an attempt to sway this particular election, that: "More than 300 Black churches across Virginia will hear from Vice President Kamala Harris between Sunday and election day in a video message that will air during morning services as part of an outreach effort aimed to boost McAuliffe."

Harris speaks of her own childhood church experiences in the video, saying that her time in church "taught her it was a 'sacred responsibility' to 'life up the voices of our community.'" And those voices, according to Harris, should vote for her preferred candidate, Terry McAuliffe.

"I believe that my friend Terry McAuliffe is the leader Virginia needs at this moment," Harris says in the video, according to CNN.

They note that she then pumps McAuliffe's "long-track record of getting things done for the people of Virginia."

Then she tells them when to go vote, right after church. CNN notes that the "McAuliffe campaign has embraced 'Souls to the Polls,' block-party style events featuring top campaign surrogates after church near polling locations, to drive voter turnout."

Harris is directly campaigning from the altars of more than 300 churches in Virginia, combining her authority as Vice President with the authority of the church itself to encourage voters to comply with her choice for their vote.

The IRS created a "ban on political campaign activity by charities and churches" in 1954, via an amendment proposed by Sen. Lyndon Johnson. That law prohibited not-for-profit groups, including charities and churches that fall under that tax designation, "from engaging in any political campaign activity."

The definition of a tax-exempt entity under the IRS code 501(c)(3) states that it is one "which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office."

Over the years, Congress has taken a closer look at this prohibition from time to time, and has in fact strengthened it.

Harris is only the latest politician to try to use the faith of the faithful in the leadership of their priests, pastors and deacons, to alter the outcome of elections. Evangelical pastors who favored Trump did it, and were widely ridiculed for it in the press.

In an AP article that also misreports the number of people who died during the Capitol riot on Jan. 6—it was one, they report five—they take aim at evangelical pastors who spoke to their congregations in favor of former President Donald Trump.

The Atlantic complained about the penchant of some evangelical pastors to back Trump, saying "The rise of Donald Trump, however, has made it harder than ever to separate evangelicalism from politics."

Films like "Unholy" were made about the "link" between Trump and evangelicals, saying that Trump's Christianity was shallow, or that churches had no business backing political candidates.

Now that Harris is preaching to Christian voters in Virginia, there is no outrage, no backlash, no furor over her encouraging people to vote on her terms. The IRS code is clear, and any church that broadcasts Harris' campaign video to their congregation is in violation of it.

The same outlets that badgered evangelical pastors for their pro-Trump views have no harsh words for Harris or the churches that allow her to campaign to their parishioners this Sunday.

Parishioners don't come to church to hear the political views of the priest, or the Vice President. They come for salvation, which is not delivered from any political perspective, leader or election, but only from God, his love and his light.

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