More than 300 “black churches” in Virginia will be shown a video featuring Vice President Kamala Harris urging members to vote for Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former governor Terry McAuliffe ahead of the Nov. 2 election in a presentation some have suggested is unconstitutional and illegal.
The video was “first obtained by CNN” and included in a tweet posted by one of the network’s national correspondents, Eva McKend.
“More than 300 Black churches across VA will hear from @KamalaHarris btwn Sun. and November 2 in video message that will air during morning services as part of outreach effort aimed to boost @TerryMcAuliffe,” noted in her post.
NEW — More than 300 Black churches across VA will hear from @KamalaHarris btwn Sun. and November 2 in video message that will air during morning services as part of outreach effort aimed to boost @TerryMcAuliffe.#VAGOV
— Eva McKend (@evamckend) October 16, 2021
The video opens with Harris claiming to have sung in a church choir when she was growing up in California while equating that with speaking out politically and voting.
“I believe that my friend, Terry McAuliffe, is the leader Virginia needs at this moment,” Harris says. “Terry has a long track record of getting things done for the people of Virginia. When he was governor in the wake of the recession, you’ll remember, he brought 200,000 jobs to Virginia.”
“Now, Terry is stepping up again, with a clear vision of how to rebuild Virginia’s economy for the future,” the vice president continues, ticking off several Democratic talking points about health care, education, and raising the minimum wage.
“Virginians, you deserve a leader who has a vision of what is possible and the experience to realized that vision,” Harris adds before imploring viewers to go vote, reminding them that for the first time in the state’s history they will be able to cast ballots on a Sunday.
In a second post, CNN’s McKend noted additional events focused on engaging black church members to cast ballots for McAuliffe.
“VP Harris implores congregants to vote following church service. The McAuliffe campaign has embraced ‘Souls to the Polls,’ block-party style events featuring top campaign surrogates after church near polling locations, to drive turnout,” she wrote in a tweet containing another clip of Harris’ message.
VP Harris implores congregants to vote following church service. The McAuliffe campaign has embraced “Souls to the Polls,” block-party style events featuring top campaign surrogates after church near polling locations, to drive turnout.#VAGOVhttps://t.co/vaefXtWqUe pic.twitter.com/yGuIL6e7Fz
— Eva McKend (@evamckend) October 16, 2021
The overtly political messages drew criticism from many on social media, several of whom questioned the constitutionality and legality of directing the message to churchgoers.
Reporter dishonestly omits that this is in violation of the law & churches tax-exempt status.
— Lee Hernly (@LeeHernly) October 17, 2021
Eva, you are a journalist, right? How do you write this without explaining whether VP Harris is violating rules in presenting a political message during church services. Does this jeopardize their tax exempt status or not? Look at the comments. People want to know. Don’t you? dc
— Donna Cordova (@DonnaCordova) October 17, 2021
This violates their tax-exempt status, correct?
— Chris Williams (@CMarshallWill) October 17, 2021
Anybody ever hear about a “separation of church and state”? The day the church I attend gives this kind of message – is the day I no longer attend that church. @TuckerCarlson @TheLaurenChen @RubinReport
— Cindy McIntosh (@cindymc61956) October 17, 2021
These people want abortion up until birth…this is demonic
— Reaganette (@Ezinger44) October 17, 2021
501(c)(3) organizations are not permitted to “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”
— Frank Silva🏴 (@amityfranksilva) October 17, 2021
Church-goers, when you see the U.S. Vice President broadcast a partisan political message into your church on Sunday, remember, not only is it illegal for churches to conduct political campaign activity, but our nation was founded on the idea of separation of church and state. pic.twitter.com/exsxiPRznA
— Aldous Huxley’s Ghost™ (@AF632) October 17, 2021
Realpolitik: find those 300 churches and file complaints with IRS for each one. Not that we should expect anything to actually happen, but people should be put on notice. https://t.co/omtroFWeB7
— Ned Ryun (@nedryun) October 17, 2021
Some observers suggested that the appeal to the black churches smacked of desperation in a race that McAuliffe initially commanded against businessman and GOP opponent Glenn Youngkin.
“We need Democrats to step up, get energized, and bring this one home for us,” McAuliffe told a rally in Henrico County Friday night, CNN reported. “People are counting on you.”
CNN adds: “Although the Democratic gubernatorial nominee has been running against Republican Glenn Youngkin for the better part of four months, tying him to former President Donald Trump and lambasting him for opposing a series of measures to combat the coronavirus, one of his most pressing concerns in the closing days of the 2021 campaign is apathy and fatigue among his own supporters.”
The network then quoted a number of rally attendees who also expressed concerns that the enthusiasm levers are not anywhere near those seen last fall during the presidential election.
“The excitement is not there,” Jim Gillespie, a 71-year-old retired mental health professional who went to the rally with wife Janis. “I don’t know if people are going to come out in the numbers they did last time.”
“I am worried about it,” Janis, a 68-year-old retired teacher, told the network. “I think there was so much passion for the presidential race, we just felt so invigorated. … And I just don’t feel like that right now.”
“Virginia has an election every single year and everybody put so much effort into the presidential that I think people are tired,” added Ginny Bonner, a retiree from Henrico County. “We had every single year, all year long, we have political commercials and ads. We don’t ever have a break.”
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