Religious Group Questions Pastor's Endorsement of DeVos

November 3, 2006

Author: David Eggert

Source: Wood TV

Wire Service: AP

LANSING, Mich. -- A religious group criticized Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos Tuesday for accepting the endorsement of a Detroit pastor, saying it jeopardizes the church's tax-exempt status.

The DeVos campaign, in turn, accused the Interfaith Alliance of a double standard. It says the pastor, the Rev. Marvin Winans of Detroit's Perfecting Church, also has supported Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

DeVos wrote in a blog on his campaign Web site Sunday that he had received Winans' endorsement from the church's podium after a campaign stop at the church earlier in the day.

According to a fact sheet the Internal Revenue Service puts out to help churches and other charitable organizations maintain their tax-exempt status, "leaders cannot make partisan comments in official organization publications or at official functions of the organization."

Churches or other religious organizations can invite candidates to speak but must ensure an equal opportunity to candidates competing for the same office. Under federal tax law, churches can discuss politics, but if they endorse candidates or parties, they can be stripped of their tax-exempt status.

The IRS warned months ago that it would be scrutinizing churches to make sure they do not violate their tax-exempt status. Groups both liberal and conservative have responded by lodging numerous complaints against churches with the IRS.