Americans United for Separation of Church and State has filed a complaint with the IRS over the Missouri Baptist Convention’s involvement in the Missouri Republican primary.
Details of the involvement were laid out in an Aug. 22 news story by contributing editor Brian Kaylor.

The MBC, however, remained politically active by backing an embattled Republican candidate, hosting a conference call Friday to rally support.

“A state Baptist group’s endorsement of two political candidates may have violated federal tax law and should be investigated by the Internal Revenue Service,” read an Aug. 23 press release from Americans United, which filed the complaint the same day.

At issue is MBC’s action in two campaigns: one for U.S. senate, the other for state attorney general.

The complaint cited a May 2012 edition of The Pathway (“the official news media of the Missouri Baptist Convention,” according to its site), in which MBC Director of Public Policy Don Hinkle wrote:

“We want government leaders who are righteous and who will pass righteous laws that serve the common good and bring glory to Jehovah God who established government and is Sovereign. This is why I personally support candidates like U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, a Republican who wants to challenge Democrat Claire McCaskill for her U.S. Senate seat, and Republican Ed Martin, the St. Louis attorney who is running for state attorney general. I support them because they view many of the critical issues the same way I do and in a way that is consistent with God’s Word.”

AU Executive Director Barry Lynn, in his complaint to the IRS, argued that even though Hinkle said he “personally” supported Akin and Martin, the support amounts to “campaign intervention” because it appeared in an official publication of the 501(c)3 organization that is the MBC. Such intervention runs afoul of federal tax law, said Lynn in the letter.

The letter also cited a July 2012 edition of The Pathway, which carried this article: “More than 100 Missouri Baptist pastors, leaders endorse Akin.” The full list of endorsers was included.

Missouri’s primary election was Aug. 7. Both Martin and Akin – the latter of whom recently made news for his comment about “legitimate rape” – won.

Lynn’s letter to the IRS referenced and included in full the story by Kaylor, who is also an assistant professor of communication studies at James Madison University and an editorial assistant for Churchnet.

“Akin’s close political relationship with the Missouri Baptist Convention was the focus of an Aug. 22 article in Ethics Daily, an online news outlet,” the letter read.

The complaint didn’t immediately deter the MBC from openly supporting Akin. A Friday conference call featured former Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee. He, along with several others, asked participants to “Pray that God will show his hand.”

As Kaylor reported in a follow-up story:

“Don Hinkle, editor of the MBC’s Pathway newspaper and MBC’s director of public policy, invited Baptists to join the conference call. The invitation went out from his MBC e-mail address and included a large MBC logo at the top of the e-mail, giving the appearance that the call was an MBC-sponsored event.”

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