Ebenezer Baptist Church said in a statement Thursday that Democrat Stacey Evans was not authorized to film a campaign ad in its sanctuary on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The campaign’s now-deleted Instagram video sparked backlash in part because it ends with an image of Evans clapping in slow-motion as the gubernatorial candidate’s face fades out and a poster of King comes into focus, briefly juxtaposing the two.
The church, the spiritual home of King, said in the statement it asked Evans to remove the video shortly after its officials became aware of the ad. And it said it wanted to clarify that it abides by federal regulations banning churches and other charitable organizations from endorsing candidates.
“Our church leadership and administration does not condone such use of the church’s iconography or worship space,” said the statement. “Any official videography and photography should be approved by the church office in advance.”
The Evans campaign said it removed the video last week shortly after church officials called, but it surfaced again in social media posts by progressive activists and others this week.
The church’s full statement:
It has come to our attention that the campaign of a political candidate filmed and produced a political ad in our horizon sanctuary last week during the Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Ecumenical Service. This was done without our knowledge, authorization or consent. When we became aware of the ad, upon its release on various social media platforms, we immediately contacted the campaign and asked that it be removed.
While it appears that the campaign did comply with our request, the ad has since gone viral and has created considerable conversation and questions on social media and in other public spaces. So, we thought it important to clarify that Ebenezer Baptist Church, in accordance with its 501 c(3) status with the Internal Revenue Service, cannot and does not endorse political candidates. Additionally, our church leadership and administration does not condone such use of the church’s iconography or worship space. Any official videography and photography should be approved by the church office in advance. We ask our guests to respect the sanctuary and all those who work to create this sacred space.
The season of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Observance brings together people of very diverse backgrounds to share in and reflect upon the legacy that Dr. King left us all. Joyfully, we welcome people of all faiths, races, political orientations and backgrounds to worship with us throughout the year, as we create together the Beloved Community.