A prominent secularist group has called for an IRS investigation into an Alabama church after it displayed a sign that endorsed Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.
Living Way Ministries in Opelika, Alabama drew widespread criticism after it displayed a sign that read: "They falsely accused Jesus. Vote Roy Moore."
Moore, who is facing Democrat Doug Jones in the Dec. 12 election, has been accused of having sexual relations with teenage girls as young as 14 while he was in his early 30s.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has contended that the church sign violates the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits nonprofits, including churches and other religious groups, from participating in political campaigns on behalf of a candidate.
"Living Way Ministries appears to have inappropriately used its religious organization to intervene in a political campaign," FFRF Legal Director Rebecca Markert stated in a letter addressed to IRS official Mary Epps in the Dallas office.
"It violated IRS regulations by expressly advocating its support for Roy Moore. Given these partisan activities, Living Way Ministries violated the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt rules, which prohibit electioneering," she added.
A representative of Living Way Ministries told WHNT last week that several people held keys to the sign, and it was one of those people who had put up the message, not the pastor. The pastor had asked the message to be taken down, two days after it was displayed in front of the church, the church representative said.
Although the church has already taken down the sign, critics on social media have demanded that Living Way Ministries be deprived of its tax-exempt status, given that it defied an IRS prohibition against endorsing a political candidate.
AL.com reported that the FFRF has requested an investigation into the church to determine if it violated the Johnson Amendment.
During the campaign period, President Donald Trump vowed to repeal the amendment, arguing that it was an issue of free speech for churches.
The Johnson Amendment, which was introduced by Lyndon Johnson while he was a U.S. senator, has been part of the tax code since 1954.
The measure was reportedly repealed in the tax bill passed by the House of Representatives, but it was not repealed in the Senate bill.
Despite the accusations against Moore, Trump endorsed the Republican senatorial candidate last week in a tweet saying, "Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama."