Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) urged Baptist pastors to consider rejecting government tax breaks for their churches, citing concerns over giving up religious freedom in exchange for deductions.
Speaking to a group of Southern Baptist pastors at a conference in Houston, Texas on Monday, Huckabee said the Internal Revenue Service targeting of conservative groups during the 2012 election should prompt churches to reconsider whether their tax-exempt status is worth the potential risks.
"The recent revelations that the Internal Revenue Service has been targeting people of faith -- people who are conservative, people who are pro-Israel -- and have been picking out the parts of belief and speech and faith that government seems to approve and that which it doesn’t approve has brought up a very important reality that I think, sooner or later, as believers, we need to confront,” Huckabee said, according to the Associated Baptist Press.
He continued, "I think we need to recognize that it may be time to quit worrying so much about the tax code and start thinking more about the truth of the living God, and if it means that we give up tax-exempt status and tax deductions for charitable contributions, I choose freedom more than I choose a deduction that the government gives me permission to say what God wants me to say."
Huckabee reiterated his stance in a Tuesday tweet:
It's time for churches to reject tax exempt status completely; freedom is more important than government financial favors.
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) June 11, 2013
Huckabee, who ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, is an ordained Southern Baptist minister, and served as the president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention from 1989 to 1991.
During his 2008 campaign, Huckabee drew significant support from churches and other Christian groups, prompting scrutiny over whether pastors had improperly engaged in partisan political activity.
One Southern Baptist preacher, Rev. Wiley Drake, said in February 2008 that he was being investigated by the IRS over his endorsement of Huckabee, putting his church's tax-exempt status at risk.