(LEAKEY, Texas) — A pastor is causing a commotion in his Texas town – and possibly hurting his non-profit status – because of a politically motivated church marquee.
The Church in the Valley marquee reads, “VOTE FOR THE MORMON, NOT THE MUSLIM! THE CAPITALIST, NOT THE COMMUNIST!”
The sign was an obvious reference to President Barack Obama, who conservatives say is a secret Muslim even though he says he is a Christian and attends church with his family. He said in an August interview with a religious magazine that it’s not his job to convince people he’s Christian. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is a Mormon.
Pastor Ray Miller declined an interview with ABC affiliate KVUE but told the station the sign was his idea because he feels strongly about the election. He said this is not the first bold statement he has made on the marquee, which changes every week.
Since all churches and houses of worship are tax-exempt under federal law, they’re barred from participating in political campaign activity.
“They are permitted under the tax laws to engage in other political activities (e.g., distribute voter guides and invite candidates to speak at church functions) so long as such activity does not support or oppose a candidate,” a 2008 report on the subject reads.
As of 2002, however, the Internal Revenue Service reported that only two churches have ever lost non-profit status over campaign involvement.
Even if the IRS doesn’t notice the marquee, it’s gotten some attention.
While some town residents of Leakey, Texas, think the sign is a problem, others told KVUE that the church should be able to put whatever it wants on its sign.
“It’s their prerogative, it’s their opinion, it’s their church,” resident Pamela Rice told KVUE.
Visitors to the church’s review page on Google weren’t so forgiving, calling miller “evil,” and “racist.”
“You give real Christians a bad name!!!!” wrote Diane Weaver, who appears to be a resident of the town.
Miller did not immediately respond to ABCNews.com’s request for comment.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ray Sanchez, CNN Newswire
Chuck Johnston, CNN Newswire