Democrat Vice President Kamala Harris is set to deliver a video message to congregants in more than 300 black churches across Virginia urging them to vote for Democrat gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe in November’s election.
CNN first reported the story, noting that the video message would go out “between Sunday and election day”:
Harris implores congregants to vote following church service. The McAuliffe campaign has embraced “Souls to the Polls,” block-party style events featuring top campaign surrogates after church near polling locations, to drive voter turnout. This election is the first year Virginians will be able to vote on Sunday.
“So when I was growing up, we sang in the choir at Oakland’s 23rd Avenue Church of God,” Harris says in the video. “We sang hymns about how faith combined with determination will see us through difficult times. And we were taught that it was our sacred responsibility to raise our voice and lift up the voices of our community. One of the most significant ways I believe that we can each use our voice is through our vote.”
“So Virginians, you have the opportunity now to raise your voice through your vote, because it’s election time,” she continues. “As you know, this is an important election coming up on Tuesday, November 2, and early voting is already underway. 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 gushes over McAuliffe, praising him as the “leader who has a vision of what is possible, and the experience to realize that vision.”
“Terry McAuliffe is that leader. In 2020, more Virginians voted than ever before, and because you did, you helped send President Joe Biden and me to the White House,” Harris concludes. “This year, I know that you will send Terry McAuliffe back to Richmond. So early voting has already started. And this is the first year that you can vote on Sunday. So please vote after today’s service.”
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
News that the vice president planned to use churches to drive a political endorsement of a candidate caused quick backlash online with many calling into question whether churches could lose their IRS tax exempt status.
Byron York, Chief political correspondent at the Washington Examiner, posted an excerpt from the IRS’ “Tax Guide for Churches & Religious Organizations”:
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all IRC Section 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches and religious organizations, 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. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made by or on behalf of the organization in favor of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of excise tax.
Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For example, certain voter education activities (including the presentation of public forums and the publication of voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. In addition, other activities intended to encourage people to participate in the electoral process, such as voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives, would not constitute prohibited political campaign activity if conducted in a non-partisan manner. On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that: (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.
— Byron York (@ByronYork) October 17, 2021