An atheist group is calling on the Internal Revenue Service to remove the tax-exempt status of a prominent megachurch after video footage surfaced of its pastor endorsing a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from the pulpit.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an advocacy group that supports a staunch separation between church and state, wrote a letter to the IRS Tuesday asking the government agency to revoke the tax-exempt status of the southern California-based Calvary Chapel Chino Hills.

The letter cited comments made by Calvary Chapel Chino Hills Pastor Jack Hibbs on Sunday as the justification for the demand.


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“I want to publicly right now, today, encourage all of you to vote for Steve Garvey,” Hibbs told his congregation, voicing his support for the Republican former Dodgers star. “You got to vote for Steve Garvey.”

“I just remembered it’s against the law for me to say that in the pulpit,” he added, stepping out in front of the pulpit. “As a public citizen, Steve Garvey is not only one of the greatest baseball players of all time. But we want Steve Garvey to represent us in the Senate. So, Steve Garvey is your only guy on the ballot.”

“So there, that was legal,” he continued as he returned to the pulpit. “I just had to move from here to there.”

Line characterized Hibbs’ comments as a direct violation of the rules imposed on organizations with 501(c)(3) status, which include churches.

The letter cited the Internal Revenue Code, which states that recipients of 501(c)(3) status cannot “participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”

“In this instance, Calvary Chapel Chino Hills has breached the responsibilities of its tax exempt status by openly endorsing a candidate for elected office,” Line asserted.

“We write to respectfully request that the IRS immediately investigate Calvary Chapel Chino Hills and ensure that it no longer receives the benefits of 501(c)(3) status and that donations made to the church are no longer treated as tax deductible.”

Line accused Calvary Chapel Chino Hills of making “a mockery of their 501(c)(3) status by reaping all of the benefits of tax exemption while knowingly violating the statute by openly endorsing political candidates running for public office.”

The Christian Post requested a comment from Hibbs via his assistant. A response was not immediately received.

FRFF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor said in a statement declaring that “the church is blatantly and gleefully flouting tax-exempt regulations,” adding, “the IRS must sanction it at once.”

The liberal outlet Right Wing Watch shared a clip of Hibbs’ remarks on X. FFRF reposted the video accompanied by a statement describing Hibbs’ endorsement of Garvey as “a clear violation of the law” and signaling an intention to reach out to the IRS.

California voters will head to the polls next week to participate in a “top-two” primary that will decide which two of several declared candidates will appear on the ballot as candidates to fill the seat once held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in November’s general election. The incumbent appointed to finish Feinstein’s term following her death last year, Sen. Laphonza Butler, is not seeking a full term.

Garvey, a retired Major League Baseball player, is the most prominent Republican candidate in the race, but he may not make it to the general election as, under California law, the two candidates who receive the most votes in the “top-two” primary advance to the general election regardless of party affiliation.