In an unexpected move Monday, the Seventh-day Adventist Church's North American Division warned its general members and leaders against showing any kind of institutional favor to Ben Carson after the retired neurosurgeon declared that he will be seeking the Republican Party's nomination for the 2016 presidential race.
"The Adventist Church has a longstanding position of not supporting or opposing any candidate for elected office. This position is based both on our historical position of separation of church and state and the applicable federal law relating to the church's tax-exempt status," noted the church in a release published by Adventist Review.
"While individual church members are free to support or oppose any candidate for office as they see fit, it is crucial that the church as an institution remain neutral on all candidates for office. Care should be taken that the pulpit and all church property remain a neutral space when it comes to elections. Church employees must also exercise extreme care not to express views in their denominational capacity about any candidate for office, including Dr. Carson," it continued.
Carson, a practicing Seventh-day Adventist Christian, is among six candidates in the Republican field who have already declared they are seeking the party's nomination for president in 2016. The others are who are also all professed Christians are: first term Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a Catholic; Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a Southern Baptist; Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, a Presbyterian; former Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee, a Southern Baptist, and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, an Episcopalian.
While the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the only denomination so far in this cycle which has found it necessary to warn members of showing institutional favor to a presidential candidate, the move is not unprecedented for churches associated with presidential candidates.
During Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential run The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints urged members against showing partiality to his candidacy because of his affiliation with the church.
"The Seventh-day Adventist Church values Dr. Carson as we do all members. However, it is important for the church to maintain its long-standing historical support for the separation of church and state by not endorsing or opposing any candidate," said the release.