Home Christian News For Boebert and Greene, Faith—And Christian Nationalism—Sells

For Boebert and Greene, Faith—And Christian Nationalism—Sells

Lauren Boebert
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., kneels during a worship service led by musician Sean Feucht in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, March 9, 2023, in Washington. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

WASHINGTON (RNS) — At last summer’s “Family Camp Meeting,” convened at Charis Christian Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the church’s pastor, Lawson Perdue, opened one of the sessions by playing a campaign video featuring Rep. Lauren Boebert driving in a demolition derby. Then Boebert took the stage herself, launching into a nearly hour-long speech that cited Scripture and laced her right-wing political message with religious rhetoric.

“I want to let y’all know, right now is the time for the church to influence the nation,” the Colorado congresswoman said, sparking applause. “This is the vision that our Founding Fathers had from the beginning.”

After she finished, Perdue took the microphone and encouraged the crowd to donate to Boebert’s cause — specifically, her reelection campaign.

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“We cannot, as a church, legally give her an offering, but I’m going to tell you how you can give to Lauren,” Perdue said, making sure to recite the URL for Boebert’s website and project it onto the screen.

“I’d like at least 50 people in this room to join me by donating $100 — I’d like to give her at least $5,000 from Charis Christian Center today,” he added, noting he planned to donate himself. “Do it today, so she knows it came from us.”

Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., a member of the House Freedom Caucus, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, July 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Mixtures of faith, politicking and even fundraising have become common for Boebert and other political figures, particularly Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, both of whom have linked right-wing political personas to conservative Christian movements and leaders. Spurred by polarized politics, forms of conservative Christian faith and overt appeals to Christian nationalism are increasingly used to bolster political and financial support for GOP candidates — sometimes in ways that may run afoul of federal tax law.

Sam Brunson, law professor at Loyola University Chicago and author of “God and the IRS: Accommodating Religious Practice in United States Tax Law,” said the solicitation at Charis Christian Center may violate federal tax law. The IRS website notes nonprofits could lose their tax-exempt status if they endorse candidates or engage in campaign fundraising, declaring they are “absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”

Sam Brunson. Photo courtesy Loyola University Chicago

Sam Brunson. Photo courtesy Loyola University Chicago

“It is clearly a problem under the Johnson Amendment,” Brunson said, referring to the common name for the specific prohibition in the tax code. “It clearly violates the rules under 501(c)(3).”

Whether breaking those rules will mean anything is another matter. Brunson pointed to a recent investigation by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune that tracked similar practices at a politically diverse range of churches from across the country. The IRS is known to avoid enforcing the Johnson Amendment, he said, and churches highlighted by the ProPublica/Texas Tribune investigation have generally faced few, if any, legal repercussions.

Neither Charis Christian Center nor Boebert’s office responded to questions about last summer’s solicitation.

Boebert, like many politicians on either side of the aisle, speaks at churches regularly, and Religion News Service did not find examples of her soliciting funds directly from the pulpit. Her speeches during church services often appeal to a broader message, or occur in sanctuaries that are hosting larger political events.

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But the line between political rally and church service has blurred in some conservative Christian spaces, particularly those that give voice to forms of Christian nationalism. Perdue wasn’t even the first faith leader to make a funding pitch on Boebert’s behalf: In 2021, Boebert also spoke at the Truth and Liberty Conference, hosted at Charis Bible College, where she attracted media attention for calling on the Almighty to install “righteous men and women of God” to run the government. Evangelist Andrew Wommack, who oversees the political group that organized the conference, stood next to her and encouraged an estimated 1,000 attendees to give $20 to her cause each.