- (Photo: Courtesy of First Baptist Dallas)
The Washington-based group Americans United for Separation of Church and State is asking the IRS to investigate whether or not Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress violated federal law by posting a video clip about his endorsement of presidential contender Rick Perry on his church's website.
The video is of Jeffress' interview with Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball and includes a clip of Jeffress' introduction of Rick Perry at the Values Voters Summit last Friday.
"Do we want a candidate who is a good, moral person or do we want a candidate who is a born-again follower of the Lord Jesus Christ?" asked Jeffress in his introduction. "Rick Perry is a a true leader, he is a true conservative and he is a genuine follower of Jesus Christ."
Federal law states that while pastors may endorse political candidates individually, the church itself cannot be involved in any sort of endorsements because of its tax exemptions.
While a disclaimer was posted on the First Baptist Church's website Monday stating that "the posting of video clips and media accounts of Dr. Robert Jeffress' recent media appearances does not constitute First Baptist Dallas' endorsement of any political candidate," AU implied it was a cheap way of trying to get around the law.
"Jeffress seems to be operating under the belief that he can post these endorsements as long as he includes some type of disclaimer," said Executive Director of AU the Rev. Barry W. Lynn in a letter to the IRS.
"The IRS has never said that disclaimers like this ameliorate candidate endorsements or make them permissible."
Jeffress made headlines last Friday after telling reporters that Republicans should not vote for presidential contender Mitt Romney because he is a Mormon and that by voting for him Republicans would be "giving support to a cult."
Jeffress addressed the issue of endorsing a candidate from the pulpit during the Sunday service two days after he made the controversial statement about Romney not being a "true Christian" because of his Mormon faith.
The Baptist minister said Oct. 9 before the First Baptist Dallas congregation, "As pastor of this church, I would never officially endorse anyone for any office from the pulpit of this church...the Internal Revenue Service frowns upon that. More importantly, I believe this pulpit is too sacred to ever use to publicly endorse a candidate."
Jeffress went on to explain, as can be seen in the video below, he felt "convicted" to endorse a Christian leader who "embraces biblical values."