Friday, September 26, 2008

Separation of Church and State

Mikaela says:
NPR had a great, if disturbing, story about 30 Christian churches that are planning to flagrantly violate the prohibition against advocating or opposing political candidates from the pulpit.

As tax-exempt organizations -- receiving a financial benefit from the federal government -- there must be a separation of church and state. Churches are free to talk issues, advocate for positions, etc., but the line is drawn when it comes to using tax-free dollars to campaign for or against candidates. That's separation of church and state, and it's a HUGE part of our constitution that ensures freedoms for the wide range of diversity of religions and churches in this nation.

It appears some Christian pastors feel they're above all that.

"Bottom line is, I'm a spiritual leader in this community, and spiritual leaders need to make decisions. We need to lead spiritually, and we need to be able to speak about the moral issues of the day. And right now, the moral issues of today are also the political issues of today," Pastor Gus Booth said.

Pastor Booth will endorse Republican nominee John McCain — four months after delivering a sermon opposing the two main candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

In May, Booth told his 150 congregants of the Warroad Community Church in Warroad, Minn., that the next president will determine policy on issues like same-sex marriage and abortion.

"If you're a Christian, you cannot support a candidate like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton," Booth said.

...Booth sent an article about his sermon to the IRS so the agency wouldn't miss it. He and his elders knew he would be jeopardizing the church's tax-exempt status.

"Big deal," he said. He added that he can get it back the next day because churches are automatically tax-exempt.

Besides, he said, electing "Godly people is more important than money."

Pastor Booth is not alone on this one. Now over 3o pastors plan this Sunday to preach politics from the pulpit and campaign with tax-free money to a captive audience. Oh my, but would I love for there to be media coverage of any walk-outs.

Two weeks ago, more than 100 pastors squeezed into a hotel meeting room in Washington, D.C., to learn about the Pulpit Initiative, a brain child of the conservative legal group, Alliance Defense Fund.

"What's been happening is that the government has been able to go into the pulpits of America, look over the pastor's shoulder, and parse the content of their sermon. And that's unconstitutional," [Defense Fund lawyer] Stanley said. "No government official should entangle itself with religion in that way."


[Ohio Pastor Eric Williams] says it's also the attempt of some churches to move aggressively into politics.

"I ask myself, 'Hmm. Why would a religious leader want to oppose a candidate? Why would a religious leader want to stand up and ask for my support for a candidate who's running for office?' They want to gain influence in the governmental process," Williams said.


"My concern is that an extreme segment of the Christian faith today is seeking to establish themselves as the public religion of our nation," Williams said.

This is such an important issue. We see what's happened as fundamentalist Christians have tried to hijack the Republican party, making candidates like McCain stray far from their voting records to court the "base."

And you can bet these same pastors, if liberal or (God-forbid) Muslim churches started campaigning from the pulpit, would be screaming bloody murder for government intervention - calling for National Guard troops or CIA-infiltration to stop them.

It's gross, it's irresponsible, hypocriticical, and unconstitutional. I am glad that I belong to a church that actually stays hypervigilant about protecting this line between issues and political campaigns and will cut a speaker off mid-sentence if they appear ready to cross it. That's protecting EVERYONE's religious freedoms.