Voter Guides At Hillside Church Of God

  • At 7:15am on June 6, 2006, I (Raymond Lutz) walked to our local polling place, Hillside church of God, at 1101 S. Mollison Ave, #A for Precinct 558800.
  • The church is used as a polling place for two precincts, 558800 and 558720. Both were found in the sanctuary, one (558800) in the rear of the sanctuary, and the other, (558720) in the front of the santuary, just under a large Christian cross.
  • Between the two polling areas, a table approximately six feet long was placed, outfitted with flowers, brochures for the church, mailing list sign-up, and a stack of "Christian Examiner" newspapers. The table was about 10 feet from one polling area and about 20 feet from the other one.
  • I turned in two absentee ballots, one for myself and the other for my wife. The poll workers helped me to submit the correctly, making sure I had signed my wife's appropriately.
  • On my way out, I went to the map of precincts because I wanted to know what the surrounding precincts were. I passed the table and picked up the newspaper.
  • At home I was able to look at the paper and it's advertising which was very partison and political in nature.
  • At about 3pm, I went back to the Church and asked how I could make a formal complaint. Doris Ichidgey, Assistant Inspector at that location signed a statement in my book witnessing the placement of the newspapers. She gave be a hotline number to call, 858-565-3360.
  • I called that number when I returned home, talking to Carrie Pickmosa, Personnel Development Manager. She had be talk to her supervisor, who said that the "Chief Deputy" Nicole Alejandre would call the next day. I requested faster response since this seemed like something that should be corrected that day. I gave her my cell-phone number (which has 24-hour voice mail, even when I am on the line) and requested a call ASAP.
  • I went to several other polling places in El Cajon that are located in churches. In all those cases, the polling was done in room that was not the sanctuary, and no Christian Examiner newspapers were seen. I returned to the Hillside Church of God and surveyed the site to confirm that the newspapers had been removed.
  • It is now two days later, and I have received no call from "Chief Deputy" Nicole Alejandre. The number for her office is 858-495-5492. Left message at 10am on 6/8/2006.


Upon further review of the paper, I noticed large advertisements for candidates. The newspaper is filled with ads for right-winger candidates. I'm sure they don't allow ads that don't fit their agenda since the publisher "reserves the right to refuse any advertising." I see a full page ad for Debbie Beyer (R), for 77th assembly district with many endorsements from the Christian community. Then, a 1/6 page ad for Larry Kincaid for Superior Court Judge.

I don't have any problem with a newpaper carrying these things, but when you distribute this in a nonprofit, tax- exempt church, I believe they are crossing the boundary that is required for their tax status. I know that when I applied for our preschool to be a charity (which we never completed) it was not allowed to post any signs whatsoever for candidates. By having this newspaper in their church, it is precisely like posting a sign stating who to vote for.

On the Debbie Beyer ad, it has endorsements by pastors of various churches, such as Dr. Jim Garlow, Senior Pastor, Skyline Wesleyan Church and Dr. Jeremiah, Senior Pastor, Shadow Mountain Community Church. He says: "The 77th District of the State of Califorina needs Debbie Beyer and, right now, Debbie Beyer needs you!"

At the bottom, it states that Dr. David Jeremiah has endorsed, Dr. Jim Garlow has endorsed Beyer. These are the pastors of the churches where this newspaper is widely distributed to large congregations. I can't imagine that this is allowed!

I could not find any article that specifically endorses candidates. However, the paper certainly endorses various bills. It has a box:

Take Action Today:
To register your opinion on SB1437, Call Governor Sshwarzenegger's office at... The Phone recording will ask...
C. Is the bill SB 1437? Yes, Press 1.
D. Are you in favor of this legislation? No, press 2.

If you ask me, that is certainly advocating a position. They paper even goes so far as to tell readers how to call and which buttons to press to promote political initiatives.

  • I called the office of the California Secretary of State in San Diego and they referred me to the attorney line in Sacramento, 916-653-7244.
    • Transferred to legal unit, unavailable to take the call. I asked them to let me know what the procedure is to make a formal complaint that churches are distributing this information.
  • Called the office of the Christian Examiner and asked for their media kit.
  • Went to Shadow Mountain Community Church web site to view the service of 6/4/2006, "God's Marriage Amendment"
    • I've been to this church and I know they distribute the Christian Examiner in the narthex.
    • mms://209.242.152.167/services/services060406.wmv Watch video of this service, skip to 40 minutes into the sermon when Dr. Jeremiah encourages political action to support the marriage amendment. This is definitely "lobbying".

  • General Guide To Church Politics - From Christianity Today
  • IRS Guide to political activity - http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/article/0,,id=120703,00.html
    • In general, no organization may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.
    • An organization will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.
    • Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise tax.
    • ...voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that: (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.
    • Organizations undertake voter education activities by distributing voter guides. Voter guides, generally, are distributed during an election campaign and provide information on how all candidates stand on various issues. These guides may be distributed with the purpose of educating voters; however, they may not be used to attempt to favor or oppose candidates for public elected office.
    • An organization may invite political candidates to speak in a non-candidate capacity. For instance, a political candidate may be a public figure because he or she: (a) currently holds, or formerly held, public office; (b) is considered an expert in a non-political field; or (c) is a celebrity or has led a distinguished military, legal, or public service career. When a candidate is invited to speak at an event in a non-candidate capacity, it is not necessary for the organization to provide equal access to all political candidates.
      • However, the organization must ensure that:
        • The individual speaks only in a non-candidate capacity,
        • Neither the individual nor any representative of the organization makes any mention of his or her candidacy or the election, and
        • No campaign activity occurs in connection with the candidate’s attendance.
In addition, the organization should clearly indicate the capacity in which the candidate is appearing and should not mention the individual’s political candidacy or the upcoming election in the communications announcing the candidate’s attendance at the event.

This topic: Common > WebHome > ElectionWatch > VoterGuidesAtHillsideChurchOfGod
Topic revision: 2006-06-08, RaymondLutz
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