Pastor Luke Emrich of New Life Church in West Bend told his congregation Sunday that he was voting for John McCain for the pro-life reasons. He claims the segment about McCain lasted "two or three minutes at most." He claims he advised his parishioners to pray on their voting decision and choose a candidate for themselves.
A group called Americans United for Separation of Church and State says Emrich crossed the line. AU's Executive Director Barry Lynn says although preachers have 1st amendment rights a "pulpit endorsement" leads to an assumption by the congregation that the pastor is using the church to back a certain candidate.
Pastor Emrich says his church also encompasses one-on-one and small groups in which current issues, beyond the election, are discussed.
Lynn says AU has never complained about religious leaders tackling moral issues but say they've "stepped off the cliff" when opposing or supporting a specific candidate. American's United is calling on the IRS to take action on what they calling a violation of the law under churches' tax exempt status.
Lynn adds Emrich followed an effort backed the Alliance Defense Fund who encouraged churches to politick from the pulpit. Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, say in a statement, they are prepared to defend the First Amendment rights of pastors who participated in their "Pulpit Freedom Sunday."