Kansas group that opposes pulpit campaigning plans to monitor churches

Posted: Friday, July 09, 2004

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) An advocacy group for separation of church and state plans to send volunteers to area church services to make sure there's no election-year campaigning from the pulpit.

The Mainstream Coalition, headed by Caroline McKnight, is sending letters to more than 400 churches in the area reminding them of IRS rules, which forbid tax-exempt groups including religious organizations from participating in political campaigns for or against candidates.

Coalition volunteers will also visit churches and report any major violations to the IRS.

After the Kansas House voted in May against a referendum on a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, prominent Kansas ministers vowed to rally their congregations to defeat lawmakers who opposed the measure.

The Rev. Jerry Johnston urged about 100 ministers at a June meeting at his 3,000-member First Family Church in Overland Park to help oust targeted lawmakers.

The ministers hope to register 100,000 new Kansas voters before the Aug. 3 primary. Johnston said Mainstream Coalition members are welcome at his church, adding that they won't find ministers doing anything wrong.

''Are we going to violate the law? Of course not,'' Johnston said.

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