Amid a surprisingly tight gubernatorial race in Virginia, Vice President Kamala Harris took the unusual step of recording a political advertisement in support of Democrat candidate Terry McAuliffe set to run in hundreds of churches between now and Election Day, a move some argue is a violation of federal law, as the New York Post reports.
The video segment will reportedly be screened in roughly 300 houses of worship across the state, and it features the vice president touting the leadership abilities of McAuliffe, who is currently in a heated battle with his Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin.
“I believe that my friend Terry McAuliffe is the leader Virginia needs at this moment. Terry McAuliffe has a long track record of getting things done for the people of Virginia,” Harris declares in the spot, according to the Washington Examiner.
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
Once news of the vice president’s involvement in the initiative emerged, however, controversy soon followed, with many on social media pointing out that a video of this nature could well violate laws that prohibit partisan politicking within tax-exempt religious organizations.
Ryan Saavedra of the Daily Wire quoted language from the Internal Revenue Service itself, which states that “the law prohibits political campaign activity by charities and churches by defining a 501(c)(3) organization as one ‘which does not 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.’”
As the Post reported, the Secular Coalition for America lobbying group, known for its representation of “the interests of atheists, humanists, freethinkers, agnostics, and other nontheistic Americans” declared Harris’ ad spot as an “inappropriate mixing of government, politics, and religion.”
Legal scholar and George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley also commented extensively on the precarious position in which the video places the churches that run it, explaining that according to the IRS, such tax-exempt entities “are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
As Turley further noted, “violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes,” something that almost certainly poses existential danger to the survival of any church. But apparently, that risk is unimportant to Democrat Party elites when one of their own is in electoral jeopardy.