The IRS has found that a nonprofit foundation that gathered a group of pastors in 2006 for a series of public conferences in advance of a Texas gubernatorial campaign did not violate the tax laws governing nonprofits.

The Liberty Legal Institute, which represented the nonprofit group, the Niemoller Foundation, hailed the ruling along with the foundation. The nonprofit group helped fund the Texas Restoration Project, which held the events in advance of the re-election of Texas Governor Rick Perry.

In January 2008, the IRS began investigating the foundation, which held six conferences in 2006 calling on pastors to stand up for moral issues and to encourage their congregants to get involved in the political process. The investigation was a result of a complaint filed by a watchdog group called the Texas Freedom Network, which accused the foundation of breaking the law by trying to influence political campaigns.

The Niemoller Foundation was accused of “encouraging pastors at the gatherings to mount voter registration drives and turn congregants out at the polls.” The IRS ruled the meetings were legal, saying that the Texas Restoration Project encouraged members to “vote their values,” but not for a particular candidate like Perry.

“This liberal attempt to intimidate pastors has backfired,” said Liberty Legal Institute chief counsel Kelly Shackelford (pictured) in a statement. “There is now a clear IRS statement outlining these pastors’ events and approving them as valid under the law.”

”We educate churches on moral issues facing our society and encourage them to participate in the democratic process,” said Niemoller Foundation director Laurence White, a Lutheran pastor.

The foundation is funded by several of Perry’s political supporters, however, according to the Dallas Morning News. They include school voucher advocate James Leininger and beer distributor Don O’Neal. Other supporters, according to the Texas Freedom Network, include Bo Pilgrim, a founder of the Pilgrim’s Pride poultry-processing company, and Bob Perry, the primary funder behind Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

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