According to a press release
issued by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Pastor Herb Lusk
, host of the Religious Right's "Justice Sunday III" rally this weekend in Philadelphia, "has a long history of partisan activity on behalf of Republicans and has been awarded more than $1 million in 'faith-based' grants by the Bush administration."
The rally will be held at Lusk's Greater Exodus Baptist Church, and broadcast nationally, seeks to rally support for the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito Jr.
, President George W. Bush's
choice to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
"I'm not at all surprised that Pastor Lusk would turn his pulpit over to the Religious Right for partisan purposes," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "Lusk long ago decided to play ball with the Bush administration in exchange for government grants."
Lynn noted that Lusk endorsed Bush from his church by video hookup during the Republican Convention in July of 2000. Speaking on behalf of his congregation, Lusk said, "We are supporting Gov. Bush, and we are supporting him because we know that he understands that we must give faith a chance."
"Justice Sunday III" is sponsored by the Family Research Council, a Washington-based Religious Right group headed by Tony Perkins. The event, scheduled for Jan. 8 from 7-8:30 p.m., is the third in a series designed to pressure Congress to stack the federal courts with judges hostile to church-state separation and to promote Republican political hopefuls.
Americans United expressed concern in 2004 about the relationship between Lusk, Bush and "faith-based" money.
"The Rev. Lusk endorsed candidate Bush, and wound up getting a $1-million faith-based grant from the Bush administration," Lynn said. "Now there's a heavenly payoff."
Lynn noted that Americans United filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service against Lusk's church in 2000, noting that religious and other tax-exempt charitable organizations are forbidden from endorsing political candidates.
At this writing, it is not clear what, if any, action the IRS may have taken in response to Lusk's endorsement of Bush from the pulpit. The IRS does not normally comment about matters under review. However, it may be fair to say that this may be the most high-profile violation of the IRS' 501(c)(3) proscription against candidate endorsement by a tax-exempt organization in American history.
[Crossposted at Political Cortex and Talk to Action]