BUENA PARK, Calif. (AP) A Southern Baptist preacher said he has been cleared of wrongdoing by the Internal Revenue Service for endorsing Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee last year.
"The bottom line is we are absolutely not guilty," the Rev. Wiley Drake told about 50 parishioners at First Southern Baptist Church. "We win."
In August, Drake wrote a press release bearing the church's name that announced his personal endorsement of Huckabee and asked all Southern Baptists to get behind the candidate. He also announced his support for the former Arkansas governor on his Internet radio show a few days later.
Under federal tax law, church officials can discuss politics, but they cannot endorse candidates or parties under the auspices of their churches without risking their tax-exempt status.
In a May 12 letter to the church that Drake made public, an IRS official wrote that an investigation found Drake's endorsement came as an individual and not on behalf of his church.
The news release endorsing Huckabee was sent out via Drake's private e-mail, listed his church position for "identification purposes" and was sent to acquaintances and not church members, the letter said.
The letter also said the radio show is separate from the church and Drake's endorsement "was done while hosting his private religious show and in his personal capacity."
An IRS spokesman said the agency does not comment on investigations. Americans United for Separation of Church and State had filed a complaint to the IRS about Drake.