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Secular Group Files IRS Complaint Against Terry Jones Church

A group says it filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service yesterday over the recent actions of Terry Jones' Dove World Outreach Center, which hanged an effigy of Obama outside of its church earlier this month. The D.C.-based group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, says the Jacksonville church is participating in partisan political activism, which makes it ineligible for its tax-exempt status.


Statements Jones gave in a New Times interview were included as evidence; Jones said the gallows display was "a symbolic action saying we do not, of course, want him re-elected. It is death -- of course, not to him. To his political career."

Americans United Executive Director Barry Lynn wrote:
If these were Jones' private activities in opposition to the president, they would not be a violation of the law. But the situation is more complex. In this case, it appears that Jones has utilized the church to express his opposition to Obama's candidacy. The gallows containing the effigy -- a clear sign not to vote for Obama -- are on the church's lawn. I believe this alone constitutes a violation of the Internal Revenue code, which bars houses of worship and other tax-exempt 501(c)(3) entities from endorsing or opposing candidates.
He also notes that Jones himself is (technically) running for president and that the church's website links to Jones' "Stand Up America Now" campaign, "Terry Jones for President ~ Real American, Real Hope."

A spokeswoman for the church said she "didn't know anything about" the complaint.

"I don't really have a response," she said when asked whether she thought the church was in violation of IRS code. "You see what we do."

The section of the IRS website dealing with referrals against tax-exempt organizations says the agency "gives serious consideration to complaints made alleging the abuse of the tax exempt status granted to certain organizations" and has a stringent investigation process for reacting to possible violations.

Here's the letter from Americans United:


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