The Rev. H. Wayne Williams, pastor of Liberty Baptist Tabernacle in Rapid City, last month endorsed GOP state Sen. Gordon Howie in the South Dakota governor’s race, in defiance of the Internal Revenue Service and a federal court ruling and in hopes of producing a landmark constitutional test case.
At issue is an IRS regulation called the Johnson Amendment, enacted in 1954, that says that 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the section of the tax code under which most churches file, cannot endorse a specific political candidate and retain its nonprofit classification.
“Why is it that I cannot walk with my Master, my Lord, in speaking on government issues?” asked Mr. Williams, citing the example of other religious leaders such as King, John the Baptist and biblical prophets, all of whom involved themselves in political issues.
Mr. Howie’s campaign, which had actively solicited support from the state’s pastors, touted Mr. Williams’ endorsement in a press release last month.
Mr. Williams said he will fight for his right to speak from the pulpit whatever he sees most fitting for his congregation, regardless of the consequences.