In Rocklin, California, a pastor has encouraged his congregation to vote Governor Gavin Newsom out of office in the upcoming recall election.
On Aug. 1, Destiny Christian Church Pastor Greg Fairrington encouraged his congregation to vote "Yes" on removing Newsom from office in the upcoming recall election.
"You afraid of Gavin Newsom? My God, do your job as Christians on Sept. 14, and vote 'yes' on recalling an immoral governor," Fairrington told his congregants.
While the message was not supposed to endorse any particular candidate, Fairrington framed the decision as one of morality rather than of politics. For Fairrington, Newsom's "policies and politics have continually contradicted the Word of God and have been in opposition with the millions of Christians in California."
Fairrington attempted to claim that his comments were not an endorsement of any candidate. Instead, he said they were highlighting the "unfortunate actions" that have hindered and harmed several Californian residents.
What remains unclear is whether this is a breach of IRS (Internal Revenue Service) regulations. When a church registers for tax-exempt status, they are allowed to engage in many political activities. However, they are not allowed to condemn or endorse a candidate by name or risk losing their tax-exempt status.
Religious leaders like Fairrington can express opinions about a candidate outside of the church but condemning or endorsing a candidate from behind the pulpit is strictly forbidden.
While this is a point of contention in politics, the IRS rarely strips churches of their tax-exempt status. The only known incident occurred in 1992 when the IRS penalized a New York Church for running anti-Clinton campaign adverts in a local paper.
Fairrington has a history of controversy. The pastor made headlines in 2020 when he refused to close his church's doors despite the state restrictions on indoor gatherings.