From The New York Times:
Church Group Calls I.R.S. Unfair on Political Violations of Tax Code
A group of religious leaders accused the Internal Revenue Service yesterday of playing politics by ignoring its complaint that two large churches in Ohio are engaging in what it says are political activities, in violation of the tax code.
In a letter to Commissioner Mark W. Everson, the clergy members cited reports of political events involving Fairfield Christian Church in Fairfield and World Harvest Church in Columbus and groups affiliated with them that have occurred or been disclosed since they raised the issue in January.
The group argues that the churches may be violating prohibitions on political activities by charities and other tax-exempt organizations and has asked the I.R.S. to audit their political activities.
The group often notes that the agency is investigating All Saints Church, a large liberal Episcopal church in Pasadena, Calif., over a sermon in 2004 that imagined a debate among Jesus, President Bush and Senator John Kerry, then the Democratic presidential candidate, and asks why the agency has not begun a similar audit of the two Ohio churches, which are conservative.
All Saints has denied wrongdoing and said the tax agency had not responded to its lawyers' calls.
The Rev. Eric Williams of North Congregational United Church of Christ in Columbus has been coordinating the activities of the critical group and said it was sending a second letter to Mr. Everson because the troublesome activities were continuing. "The I.R.S. really needs to take a more proactive stance if it's truly concerned about the political activities of all churches," Mr. Williams said.
Last year, the inspector general of the Treasury Department said political considerations played no role in selecting charities for reviews.
"For the 2006 electoral season, we are poised to look into allegations quickly and get an agent involved promptly if there is a valid reason for concern," the I.R.S. said in a statement.
A spokesman for World Harvest Church, Giles Hudson, said the tax agency had not contacted his church.
"This latest complaint filed by a group of left-leaning clergy amounts to nothing more than a campaign of harassment, and with the primary election just three weeks away, the timing couldn't be more obvious," the church said in a statement.
No one returned messages seeking comment from Fairfield Christian.
The critics' group says that the two churches' activities continue to support the gubernatorial candidacy of Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell almost exclusively, violating requirements that nonprofit organizations treat all candidates in a race even-handedly.
In 2004, Mr. Blackwell flew to three events on the World Harvest Church plane with its pastor, the Rev. Rodney L. Parsley, to protest same-sex marriages. Mr. Blackwell paid $1,000 for the flights, The Associated Press said, and Mr. Hudson noted that Mr. Blackwell took the trips before he was officially a candidate.