CHURCH & STATE: Governor’s church visit sparks debate

By Ann Marie Shambaugh

A recent visit by Gov. Rick Perry to a Frisco church has generated an intense exchange on about the role of politicians in the pulpit.

The Republican governor visited Elevate Life Church Sunday to participate in a ceremony marking the congregation’s 10th anniversary.

Diane Rado of The Dallas Morning News reported Monday that the governor “took the stage and launched into criticism of the federal government, while expressing his love for his state and his job.”

Some readers felt that this should cause the church to lose its tax-exempt status.

“The IRS should take a serious look at this church’s tax exempt status. I think that having Perry make a political speech might well result in the revocation of its status, meaning the gifts to it by its members would not be tax exempt,” commented one reader on the story posted at

Others who attended the service said the governor did not attend the celebration as a political event, but as a way to mark a milestone with people who share his faith.

“While I may not agree with everything Gov. Perry does as our governor, I support him now because he is the leader of Texas. I did not hear his message as a political rally but as a man professing his belief that our nation should be guided by godly principles,” commented another online reader.

Attorney Mark Zimmermann of Dallas, who specializes in business and intellectual property litigation, said churches often are affiliated with politics, but few lose tax exempt status because of it.

“Many churches take political stands,” Zimmermann said. “Jesse Jackson, for example, is a preacher, as was MLK.  While churches taking political position may be unwise, it seldom if ever leads to a loss of tax exempt status.”

 “Whether he is a Democratic or Republican governor, we would want the governor to come,” Elevate Life pastor Keith Craft said in The Dallas Morning News report.

Frisco Mayor Maher Maso, who also attended the ceremony, does not believe the governor said anything “out of the ordinary.” He also said he believes it is important for elected officials to reach out to all types of organizations in the community.

Maso said he has addressed several congregations during his time in office.

“I see no issue in addressing members of any congregation, especially when it includes factual information about the city and what’s going on in the community and ways people can be involved to help,” Maso said. “The churches in Frisco are a valuable part of our community.”

Elevate Life Church on Teel Parkway in West Frisco has about 4,000 members.

Ann Marie Shambaugh is editor of the Frisco/Little Elm edition of neighborsgo.

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