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Last Sunday, Pastor Greg Peters of Parkview Church in Palm Coast, Florida brought on stage three candidates for the Flagler County School Board and urged his congregation to vote for all three in order to “flip” the district so it’s under conservative Christian control.

Endorsing political candidates is literally the one thing a non-profit/church cannot do if it wants to maintain its non-profit status with the IRS, but conservatives Christians have long believed the rules don’t apply to them, and the IRS has been too cowardly (or short-staffed) to go after them.

Peters spent nearly 20 minutes telling his church why they should vote for the candidates, giving each of them an opportunity to make their case. Virtually none of that time was spent talking about district-specific issues. Based on what they said, you would think their only qualification for the jobs they’re seeking is being a conservative Christian. You might also assume, wrongly, that their opponents are anti-Christian.

I condensed his endorsements down to about two minutes below, but you can see the full sermon here (beginning at 29:39):

During that makeshift political rally, Peters prayed to defeat a “woke agenda,” cited evangelist and bigot Franklin Graham in defense of his actions, and bragged about how all three candidates were backed by The 1776 Project, a right-wing political action committee that opposes educating children about systemic racism while promoting a whitewashed and misleading vision of American history.

There was no mention of the fact that the sole incumbent on stage, Jill Woolbright, twice rejected a proclamation denouncing hate groups, filed a criminal complaint against her superintendent over a book she wanted to see banned, and responded to the COVID crisis by taking the side of… the virus.

The Central Florida Freethought Community, which first alerted me to this sermon, says it is working with a church/state separation group to report Parkview to the IRS, though, again, it’s doubtful the government will take any action against them.

The bigger issue here is that this evangelical Christian church, like so many others, is effectively functioning as an arm of the Republican Party, telling members that they should vote for a specific batch of candidates and implying that those votes are symbolic of and synonymous with an endorsement of Jesus. You’re not a good Christian if you don’t vote for these conservative school board members, Peters implied.

Greg Peters is allowed to do that in his personal capacity. That’s not what this was. His church is also allowed to tell people how to vote, but if it wants to play that game, then it cannot maintain its status as a tax-exempt non-profit group. The rules must apply to churches like they would any other group.

The Johnson Amendment is still in effect, no matter how often Donald Trump lied about repealing it and no matter how often other churches pretend they’re above the law. Non-profits that don’t want to abide by the rules shouldn’t be rewarded for it.

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.