The IRS has received a complaint from a church-state watchdog group concerning the pastor's sermon in which he forbade Christians to vote for Democrats.
A nonprofit organization called Americans United for Separation of Church and State has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service or IRS on Monday over Pastor Greg Locke's recent Sunday sermon at Global Vision Bible Church of Mount Juliet in Tennessee, which they believed violated the Johnson Amendment. This provision in the U.S. tax code prohibits 501 non-profit organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Churches that meet certain requirements are classified as 501 non-profit organizations.
"Though Locke stated he was not a 'full-fledged Republican,' he clearly told his congregants to vote against the Democrats, from the pulpit of his church," Americans United attorney Ian Smith wrote, adding that in the complaint letter, the group said the pastor's actions "[violated] the law, and we ask for an investigation into Locke's conduct under 26 U.S.C. [paragraph] 7611," the Christian Post reported.
Public Alerts the Watchdog About Pastor's Sermon on Voting Against Democrats
According to Americans United president and CEO Rachel Laser, several people alerted the church-state watchdog group about Locke's sermon, which was posted online that the group believes "violated the Johnson Amendment on social media." However, she admitted that the group was aware of Locke's "inflammatory rhetoric" for years now, adding that the pastor even prayed for the far-right group called the Proud Boys on the eve of the attack on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021.
Laser reported that Locke had also burned a book written by Americans United VP of Strategic Communications Andrew L. Seidel back in 2019. She criticized the pastor for refusing to follow health guidelines during the COVID pandemic to ensure churchgoers' health and safety. Laser admitted that because IRS investigations are considered confidential, she does not expect to hear from them as they investigate the pastor for possibly violating the Johnson Amendment.
Laser also denounced Locke's rhetoric, arguing that the pastor was "not only taking sides in a partisan political fight but also threatening another insurrection and taking power 'by force.'" She described his actions as "fundamentally undemocratic and un-American." She added that the tax exemption Locke is currently enjoying is being abused by the pastor "in truly gruesome fashion."
Pastor Labels Democrats as 'Demons' in Sermon
During Locke's Sunday sermon, which can be viewed on Global Vision Bible Church's Facebook page, he described Democrats as "God-denying demons that butcher babies and hate this nation." He also ordered anyone in his church who were Democrats to leave. The pastor referred to President Joe Biden as a "sleepy old fool" and argued that the Democrats cheated and stole the 2020 presidential elections.
Calling Democrats "God-hating communists," Locke issued a stern warning that if they keep pushing the buttons of conservatives, they just might see a real insurrection, a label used to describe the events on January 6, 2021 when President Donald Trump's supporters stormed Capitol Hill in protest of the presidential election results.