To learn more

To read more about Pulpit Freedom Sunday, go to www.speakupmovement.org/Church.To read IRS 501(c)(3) rules for churches and religious organizations, go to www.irs.gov/charities/churches/index.html. To learn more about Americans United for Separation of Church and State, go to www.au.org.

A local pastor urged people to vote for Mitt Romney during the Sunday morning church service, despite Internal Revenue Service guidelines that forbid tax-exempt organizations from endorsing candidates or campaigning in church.

“The IRS is not going to be the sermon content manager for this pulpit,” the Rev. Dr. Kevin Baird, pastor of Legacy Church in West Ashley, told about 150 members, who responded with a round of applause.

In fact, Baird plans to mail the IRS a copy of his sermon. He hopes the tax agency will threaten to remove his tax-exempt status, so he can take the agency to court. He said the 1954 amendment to the tax code that’s used to regulate religious speech is unconstitutional and hinders pastors from their mission of telling the truth as they see it.

“Religion and politics are inexorably intertwined in our nation’s history,” he said during his sermon. “Whatever the Bible touches — and it touches every aspect of life — I have an obligation to teach it and to preach it.”

Baird’s calculated challenge to the IRS was part of the fifth annual Pulpit Freedom Sunday, an effort by the Alliance Defending Freedom to challenge IRS restrictions on religious speech.

The alliance said about 1,000 pastors across the country were participating this year, although Baird estimated the number at 1,500.

Christians should not support Obama because he has diverted tax money to abortion providers and supports gay marriage, Baird said in his sermon.

“This administration has been … one of the most hostile administrations ever to the Christian faith,” Baird said. “This administration is in rebellion to God, and I as a Bible-believing Christian am no longer going to support it.”

Romney holds to a Mormon theology that many Christians believe to be in error, but at least he has promised to divert tax money from abortion providers and slow down the acceptance of gay marriage, Baird said.

“At least he’s closer to the foundation,” he said.

Nobody in Baird’s congregation seemed to object to the public exhortation to vote for Romney. They applauded several times during the sermon and expressed their appreciation afterward.

“I think it’s freedom that’s been taken away from us, and we need to gain it back for the nation’s sake,” Maria Gabriele of James Island said.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or twitter.com/dmunday.