ORANGE PARK, Fla. -- It was 8 a.m. mass at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church. Father James Boddie runs the Orange Park parish, but he was not there.
According to the guidelines of the Catholic Church, Assistant Pastor Dan Nelson crossed the line during the service.
Nelson was at the pulpit and ended his homily with a political statement that offended some parishioners. Nelson confirmed with First Coast News that he made the remark
So what exactly did he say that offended members like the Furlow family? The Furlows were not available for an on camera interview but said via email that Nelson's exact words were, "You can vote for anybody, even a dog, but don't vote for Obama" and that, they say, crossed the line.
Steven Combs teaches Florida constitutional law and speaks on religious freedoms. He said this is not a case of separation of church and state, but it is still a violation.
"It is not really a separation of state and church issue as much as a taxation issue," Combs said.
Combs says churches crossing that line could lose their tax exempted status
"They're absolutely jeopardizing their tax status," he said.
The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops has guidelines for election and political activities. It does not include telling parishioners how to vote.
Father Boddie has apologized to those who were offended by Pastor Nelson's remarks and says he will reiterate the church's position during this coming weekend's services.
UPDATE: Since this story aired Monday night, several churchgoers said Nelson's wording was different than the Furlows' account.
Parishoner Dan Benefield wrote in an email that, "Father Dan did say 'whatever you do, you can't vote for Obama,' but he didn't use the word 'dog.'"
Another parishoner, Mardelle Wehby, wrote in and said "He did not say anything about a dog. That is a lie."