A North Carolina church is displaying a blatantly anti-Hillary Clinton sign, and the pastor who put it up is refusing to back down from criticism, WIS-TV (Columbia) is reporting.
Tim Jones is the pastor of Resurrection Baptist Church in Kannapolis, North Carolina (population: about 40,000). And the marquee outside of the church building makes it abundantly clear who Jones, and presumably the rest of the congregation, is supporting in this election.
— Roland Wilkerson (@Rowilkerson) November 7, 2016
“As long as I pastor this church and as long as I have a breath, I’m going to let people know where I stand. And I stand for God and I stand for what’s right and I stand for this country.”
Additionally, according to the Charlotte Observer, Jones is offering free van rides for voters who can’t vote make it to the polls — if they’re voting for Trump, that is. Voters who are supporting Hillary Clinton can take a cab, he says.
“The only stipulation is you vote against abortion, corruption, excessive gun control, Obamacare and career political criminals! Otherwise you will have to take a cab! Our church is NOT ashamed to stand up and support Donald Trump!”
Jones admits that he doesn’t view Donald Trump as the perfect candidate, but he says that there is absolutely nothing about Hillary Clinton that he supports.
So is it legal for a church to put up a sign that blatantly endorses a political candidate? Yes and no.
It is not a crime for a pastor, a church, or anyone else to endorse a political candidate (or a cause). The First Amendment protects Pastor Jones’ rights to freedom of speech, and legally he can make the marquee at his church say just about anything (excluding profanity or other forms of speech that are not considered protected under the First Amendment). The cops aren’t going to put the pastor in handcuffs and take him to jail.
However, churches and other non-profit groups — specifically, those who file as 501(c)(3) corporations — are prohibited from endorsing political candidates. Groups that violate this rule can lose their tax-exempt status. There are also other ways a church (or mosque or synagogue or any other religious congregation) can lose its tax-exempt status, according to Legal Zoom, including transferring money to insiders or influencing legislation.
Whether or not any church has ever lost its tax-exempt status for endorsing political candidates is not clear. In 2011, the IRS reported that some 275,000 organizations across the country had lost their 501(c)(3) status, but in all cases, it was because of failing to file the proper paperwork on time.
Resurrection Baptist is not the first church to draw criticism for publicly endorsing a political candidate this year. In Texas, according to KTXS-TV (Abilene), Pastor Mike Marshall of House of Prayer in Brownwood put up a Trump/Pence sign under the church’s marquee. When told that what he was doing is not permitted, he refused to back down.
“I won’t be pushed, I won’t be pushed. The sign is staying up after the political election.”
Back in North Carolina, Jones says his sign at Resurrection Baptist has stirred up some controversy in the community.
“I am receiving several ‘hate’ messages and that shows just how divided our nation is. Our country is a democracy and we are privileged to be able to vote freely. We respect your decision to vote for your candidate and we choose to vote our moral convictions.”
Do you think Pastor Jones is within his rights to have the sign at his church be blatantly political?
[Featured Image by Bobkeenan Photography/Shutterstock]