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Group demands IRS investigate Iowa church over push to oust judges
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is asking the Internal Revenue Service to investigate an Iowa church that is organizing it’s own campaign to unseat three justices from the Iowa Supreme Court.
Sioux City-based Cornerstone World Outreach sent a letter Sept. 3 informing pastors about Project Jeremiah, a church-based campaign to encourage their congregations to vote against retaining judges on three consecutive Sundays leading up to Election Day. The letter, which was sent on church stationary and signed by the Rev. Cary Gordon, who serves on Cornerstone’s pastoral staff, urges pastors to join a campaign to unseat the judges and concedes that the project raises legal dangers. To soothe any fears, the letter notes that the conservative Liberty Institute has volunteered to provide legal defense if necessary.
From the letter:
Project Jeremiah 2010 was organized by the pastoral staff of Cornerstone Church (aka Cornerstone World Outreach), in conjunction with PeaceMakers Institute, Liberty Institute and the Iowa Family Policy Center, to call for the removal of activist Judges from the Iowa Supreme Court, backed by a pledge of legal protection for pastors from the lawyers of Liberty Institute. Pastors who join this effort are asked to commit to confront the injustice and ungodly decisions of the Iowa Supreme Court by boldly calling upon their flocks to “vote no on judicial retention for the three consecutive Sundays prior to Election Day.
And what, you may be thinking, do I do if I am threatened for speaking out against the Iowa Supreme Court? Liberty Institute will defend any courageous pastor or priest in the state of Iowa (from the IRS) – in court – for free – that is willing to follow the example of the New Testament church fathers who challenged the unscriptural public policies of their day as an example for every generation to follow.
The Rev. Barry Lynn, Americans United executive director, said the church’s campaign is a clear violation of federal tax law.
“I don’t think I have ever seen a more outrageous effort to politicize churches,” Lynn said. “This deplorable scheme seeks to turn houses of worship into dens of inequity and intolerance. I call on the IRS to move swiftly to put a stop to this outrage.
“It’s bad enough that the leaders of this church are using donations from the collection plate to fund a hardball political operation,” Lynn continued. “It’s even more appalling that they are doing so in a bigoted attempt to deny civil rights to a targeted minority. This is downright shameful.”
Federal tax law forbids 501(c)3 organizations, including churches, from intervening in elections in support of or opposition to any candidate.
An organized effort to oust the three justices over their 2009 decision that effectively legalized same-sex marriage is already underway and being funded by the Mississippi-based American Family Association.
In addition to being a pastor at the church, Gordon is also president of PeaceMakers Institute, a 501(c)4 nonprofit. Cornerstone World Outreach is already at the center of controversy over the actions of several of its members who serve on the Sioux City Human Rights Commission.
Several requests for comment from the church by The Iowa Independent have not received a response.
Below is Gordon’s Sept. 3 letter: