It’s not that I expect a “Cowboy Church” to share my values. But the Cowboy Church Of Corsicana (Texas), like all churches, is a non-profit organization whose tax exemption rests on the fact that it doesn’t tell its members how to vote.
That’s true of all non-profits — even ones whose issues land them clearly on one side of the political spectrum — no matter what Donald Trump says to the contrary. Trump has repeatedly lied about striking down the Johnson Amendment, something he doesn’t have the power to eliminate.
On Wednesday, however, the Cowboy Church’s Pastor Derek Rogers broke that rule and told everyone to vote for Trump because not doing so would allow “evil” to win.
… I know that, as pastors, we’re not supposed to talk about politics and those type of things, but because we’ve avoided politics as pastors and hadn’t talked about the truth of God’s word, and the truth in politics, you can see the state of our society now. So I’m going to go out of the norm and I’m going to talk to you just for a minute tonight.
This election, you’re voting for good or evil. You’re not voting for Democrat or Republican, you’re voting for good or evil, one or the other. And I’m just going to encourage you, and I’m going to say it like this: I don’t know how anybody could call themselves a born again Christian, and have a relationship with God, our Father, and know anything about the Bible and the truth of the Bible, I do not understand how anybody that calls themselves a Christian could vote for the agenda and the platform of Joe Biden.
Yep, I said it.
President Trump, he ain’t the greatest dude in the whole world, but he’s the closest thing that we got to what we need. And I’m gonna encourage you. He’s gonna fight for Christianity. He’s gonna fight for everything that we believe in as Christians and the Bible. And the other party is gonna fight to take away every religious freedom and every right we have as Christians.
It matters and you need to know that if you don’t know it. If you haven’t caught up with the current times, that’s the fact of the matter. This Democratic Party is not the Democratic Party that your parents voted for or your grandparents voted for. It is an evil monster. Now, send the voicemails, send the hate mail, send the ugly texts. It doesn’t bother me. I’m just telling you straight up: It matters this year, and if you’re gonna vote as a Christian, and vote for biblical truth, you better vote for Donald Trump so that we can keep America great and keep our religious freedom and our rights as Christians. So I said it.
Salvation apparently depends on accepting Jesus Christ as your lord and savior… and supporting Republicans. Those two things. That’s it.
Just about everything he said there was a lie. Democrats aren’t going to “take away every religious freedom and every right we have as Christians.” (If that was the goal, then nominating a devout Catholic who constantly talks about his faith is a very strange way to do it.) And Trump’s form of fighting for Christianity involves tear-gassing citizens for a photo op where he’s holding up a Bible and saying the only person more famous than him is Jesus. Whatever people think he’s done for the faith, he’ll be an albatross around the necks of white evangelical Christians and conservative Catholics for decades to come.
But none of that matters here. Plenty of people are as deluded as Rogers is. There’s nothing illegal about that.
What he’s not allowed to do is tell people what to do in the voting booth. This is a textbook violation of IRS policy. It doesn’t mean Rogers committed a crime or that he should go to jail; it means he can’t run a non-profit church and tell people how to vote. He has to pick one. It sounds like he’s made his choice, so the IRS should revoke his church’s tax exempt status.
I don’t have faith in the current IRS to take this seriously. As the Washington Post noted in 2016, even when churches deliberately tried to get the IRS to come after them, “only one has been audited by the IRS, and none punished.” But if our government was more effective — and it could be with more adequate funding and resources and competent leadership under the next administration — then this church would be punished for doing what other non-profits know they can’t do.
It doesn’t matter if Planned Parenthood wants you to vote for Biden or the NRA wants you to vote for Trump. Neither group says that out loud because they know how the system works. They talk about their issues rather than telling people which candidate to support in the voting booth.
No one’s saying this pastor can’t have his opinions or share them in a personal capacity. No one’s infringing on his free speech. But telling people to vote for Trump during a sermon is beyond the pale as far as the IRS rules are concerned. If the government won’t punish a church like this, then why should everyone else follow the rules?