Robert D. Novak's June 28 op-ed column, "Divided GOP," said that partisan political activity by liberal churches "never incurs" the wrath of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Had Mr. No- vak called us, he would have learned that our efforts in this area are even-handed.

Since 1996 we have asked the IRS to investigate 48 houses of worship and religious nonprofits for intervention in political campaigns. Twenty-four endorsed Republicans; 19 endorsed Democrats. The other five endorsed third-party candidates or intervened in nonpartisan races.

Mr. Novak also misled his readers by stating that tax law muzzles pastors "who talk politics in their churches." The prohibition properly extends only to endorsement of or opposition to specific candidates. Pastors are free to discuss political issues.

The ban on partisan endorsements also covers every nonprofit that holds a 501(c)(3) tax exemption, religious and non-religious. It's not a special restraint on churches.

Mr. Novak and Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.) want to change tax law to allow houses of worship to jump into partisan politics. Every poll I have seen on this question shows that the American people disagree by a wide margin.


Executive Director

Americans United

for Separation of Church and State