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Nonprofit demands IRS investigate Florida church over planned Trump rally

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a nonprofit group with more than 30,000 members that works to advocate for separation of church and state, is calling on the IRS to “promptly investigate” a megachurch in Miami that is hosting a campaign event for President TrumpDonald TrumpGOP-led Maricopa County board decries election recount a 'sham' Analysis: Arpaio immigration patrol lawsuit to cost Arizona county at least 2 million Conservatives launch 'anti-cancel culture' advocacy organization MORE on Friday.

In a letter sent to the IRS on Tuesday, Rebecca Markert, who serves as the foundation’s legal director, said the King Jesus International Ministry, also known as El Rey Jesus, could be violating IRS regulations by appearing to express support for Trump.

To back the group’s claims, Markert pointed to the “Evangelicals for Trump” rally scheduled for Friday afternoon at the church, as well as comments the Miami Herald reported pastor Guillermo Maldonado recently made urging church members to attend the event, saying: “If you want to come, do it for your pastor. That’s a way of supporting me.”

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“In urging congregants to come to a political rally, and in hosting the political rally, King Jesus Ministry appears to have inappropriately used its religious organization and 501 (c)(3) status" to intervene in a political campaign, Markert wrote. 

“It violated IRS regulations by seemingly expressing its support for a candidate in the November 2020 presidential election,” she continued.

The IRS states on its website that a church is not allowed to “attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates” in order to maintain its tax-exemption status. 

However, the King Jesus International Ministry states on its webpage detailing the Friday rally that it is a “non-partisan, non-political church.”

“Our ministry does not endorse any political candidates or engage in political campaigns. It is a religious organization that ministers to the community. While we advocate for issues we care deeply about, such as family and respect for life, we do not take positions in political campaigns,” it continues.

The church said that while the event is being held at its site, it is “being paid for and organized by President Trump’s election campaign.”

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“We agreed to lease space in exchange for fair compensation,” it states. “No church resources are being used and our agreement to provide rental space is not an endorsement of President Trump’s campaign or any political party.”

The church added that Maldonado has also been selected “in a personal capacity” to be “a part of the Evangelicals for Trump Coalition,” which it describes as “a group of pastors who pray for and advise the President on spiritual matters and important issues from a Christian perspective.” 

“Our ministry will continue to join with other Christians to pray for all our leaders and office seekers, regardless of their affiliations,” it also said.

The IRS and Trump's reelection campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Hill.