Upcoming Trump church event accused of violating IRS rules

The King Jesus International Ministry, a suburban megachurch with a large Spanish-speaking congregation, is seen ahead of a January 3 visit by U.S. President Donald Trump in Miami, Florida, U.S. December 31, 2019. REUTERS/Eva Marie Uzcategui

President Donald Trump is gathering momentum with both evangelicals and Spanish speakers, which is possibly why an event this week has the left noticeably spooked.

Trump will launch an “Evangelicals for Trump” coalition of supporters Friday at the El Rey Jesus church, the Trump re-election campaign and the church announced this week.

El Rey Jesus, also known as King Jesus International Ministry, attracts thousands of people to services delivered in English and Spanish each week, church leaders say.

But according to Reuters, a nonprofit group warned Tuesday that the evangelical Florida mega-church may be violating tax rules barring religious groups from participating in political campaigns.

El Rey Jesus founder Guillermo Maldonado on Sunday urged his congregation to attend the Trump event at its church in Miami, the Miami Herald reported on Dec. 29. Internal Revenue Service rules exempt charities, including churches, from federal taxes provided they do “not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.”

According to the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which advocates for what it calls the separation of church and state, Maldonado’s Dec. 29 sermon violated the IRS rules, the group said Tuesday.

“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” to intervene in a political campaign, Rebecca Markert, the foundation’s legal director, said in a letter to Mary Epps, the IRS’ acting director of exempt organizations.

In the letter, Markert called for the IRS to “commence an immediate investigation” of violations of tax regulations.

The IRS did not immediately comment.

The Trump campaign would not comment on whether the event may breach tax laws and could not provide any more information about other evangelical leaders who might attend.

In an email statement, an El Rey Jesus spokesperson said the church campus was merely the site of the public event, not the organizer. “We are not organizing or managing the event, simply opening our doors and joining with other Christians in attendance to ask God to bless our leaders and our president with wisdom to guide our nation,” the spokesperson said.


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