A watchdog group, Americans United for Church and State, has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate a Nevada church whose pastor called for the election of Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
Obama spoke during services at the Pentecostal Temple Church of God in Christ in Las Vegas on Jan. 13. Before the Illinois senator arrived, Pastor Leon Smith told the congregation, "The more he [Obama] speaks, the more he wins my confidence, and ... if the polls were open today, I would cast my vote for this senator."
Smith added, "If you can't support your own, you're never going to get anywhere.... I want to see this man in office."
The group pointed out that churches are tax-exempt and are not permitted to engage in partisan politics.
"The pastor clearly stated that Obama should be elected, and he did so from the pulpit during Sunday services," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, in a statement. "It's impossible to see this as anything but an endorsement."
He noted that Obama's appearance in the church occurred just six days before the Nevada caucuses, which were won by Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side and Mitt Romney on the Republican side. Lynn has written a letter to the IRS urging it to investigate the matter promptly.
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