Kamala Harris’s sermon urging churchgoers to vote for McAuliffe is illegal, say law scholars

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The same establishment left that cried foul when former President Donald Trump proposed eliminating the Johnson Amendment is now quiet as a mouse over Vice President Kamala Harris helping over 300 black churches reportedly violate it.

According to legal scholar Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School, the Johnson Amendment is a U.S. tax code provision that bars non-profits, including churches, from endorsing or opposing candidates for office.

Yet over the weekend, the vice president delivered a live virtual “get out the vote” sermon to over 300 black churches in Virginia. And in the sermon, she blatantly called for churchgoers to vote for Democrat gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe.

Speaking on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” Monday evening, Turley noted that this is a “serious problem.”

Listen:

(Video: Fox News)

“The Biden administration has to enforce our tax laws, including rules governing 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches. Part of those regulations include what’s called the Johnson Amendment, and that prohibits direct politicking in churches in order to be tax-exempt,” the legal scholar explained.

“So if churches play this video, they would be in violation of federal law. If the White House participated in this plan to have direct politicking, they would have assisted in that violation. That puts them in a rather awkward position, since their administration has to enforce this very rule,” he added.

But it gets worse. During her sermon, Harris directed black churchgoers to to a website, IWillVote.com, that’s been “paid for by the Democratic National Committee.”

(Source: IWillVote.com)

“It’s an extraordinary video because the White House could always argue that we just made the video — the violators are the churches who decided to play them. But that doesn’t quite work when the video is referencing churches and their services and saying go directly from church to vote,” Turley continued.

So the question here is did the White House knowingly create a video to violate federal law? Clearly, they’re not the ones who will lose their tax-exempt status — it will be the churches — if this was ever fully enforced,” he added.

The assumption is that nothing will be done given as Democrats control the White House and thus the Department of Justice. And, as noted by Fox News host Laura Ingraham, the DOJ is currently busy prosecuting “Jan. 6th grandmas and grandpas.”

Despite the DOJ’s lack of action, Turley stressed that what happened is still a “serious problem.” He concluded his remarks by drawing attention to the left’s reaction when Trump had pursued the elimination of the Johnson Amendment years earlier.

“What’s interesting is that President Trump really did not like the Johnson Amendment and insisted he was going to get rid of it. When he did it, many Democrats, many legal experts cried foul. And they said this is destroying the separation of church and state, this is encouraging the violation of federal law. Yet after this video played, there was nothing but crickets from many of those areas,” the legal scholar noted.

It appears to be yet another example of the “rules for thee, but not for me” phenomenon that’s become so endemic to the left.

No matter what the rule, a stunning number of Democrats — going all the way up to the top — seem to believe that they deserve an exemption from the rules that they demand others strictly abide by.

Turley isn’t the only legal expert to raise concerns over the vice president’s video.

“If Kamala Harris actually is specifically endorsing a candidate, and churches are showing this in their churches, that seems like it would be a pretty clear violation of the Johnson Amendment. I think them showing the video would make it their speech, basically,” an unnamed election lawyer told Fox News.

The unnamed lawyer nevertheless conceded that nothing will likely come of this.

“How bad does that look for the Biden administration to start cracking down on black churches?” the lawyer said.

In other words, why would the administration go after its own allies?

One attorney, Jean Baran of Holtzman Vogel Baran Torchinsky & Josefiak PLLC, defended the video from Turley’s criticisms, arguing that the legal scholar was assuming “the church [was] speaking,” not Harris.

“I don’t believe the IRS has applied the statute in the way advocated by Turley. I am unaware of any church, including an evangelical church, in which a candidate has spoken being subject to revocation of tax-exempt status. Turley does not cite an example,” Baran told Fox News.

Turley reportedly fired back via email, telling Fox News that the Johnson Amendment “does not simply limit the prohibition to ‘intervention.'”

“It includes participating and specifically references publishing or distributing statements. Moreover, the church speaks by featuring the video, particularly knowing in advance [as here] that the video will be calling the faithful to vote for McAuliffe. It is actively seeking to distribute that message to the faithful,” he wrote.

Watch the vice president’s politically charged church sermon below:

Vivek Saxena

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