Using the Church for Partisan Politics

There is little question that endorsing parties or candidates from the pulpit violates our election laws. To do so should lead to those churches losing their tax-exempt status.
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Those on the political left have been appalled as the Christian Coalition passed out, in Evangelical churches, millions of voter guides that lent obvious endorsements to candidates of the Republican Party. During this last election, there was further outrage among liberal Democrats when members of the Evangelical clergy organized to overtly promote the election of Republicans to Congress. There were cries of protest from those on the left who claimed that such partisan politics violated the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. However the courts finally interpret the first amendment of the Constitution, there is little question that endorsing parties or candidates from the pulpit violates our election laws. To do so should lead to those churches losing their tax-exempt status.

But what my friends on the political left fail to acknowledge is that the same kind of violations have been going on for years in African-American churches from one end of this country to the other. Every election season, Democratic candidates file into African-American churches and are introduced to the congregations of these churches as friends of the pastors. And, even if the pastors of these churches never officially endorse these candidates, everyone knows what is going on.

But it is not only African-American churches that are guilty of such openly partisan politics. There are white churches which are getting caught up in the same sort of practices. I personally know of a church where most of the members are anti-Bush, which during a worship service invited members to sign a petition demanding his resignation.

It is time for all of us to call upon the Election Commission to take action and put an end to any kind of partisan politics by churches, mosques, or synagogues. And it is time for us to name the hypocrisy of the Left in complaining about how the Religious Right is violating the first amendment while turning a blind eye to their own candidates' use of churches as places to campaign. The time to act is now, because there is mounting pressure to get Congress to change the law so that campaigning and fundraising in religious communities be made legal.

A strong case can be made for religious leaders to speak out on political issues. No one wants to deny pro-life congregations, such as Roman Catholic churches and the majority of Evangelical churches, the right to have sermons on the sanctity of life. All of those who follow the teachings of the New Testament, the Hebrew Bible, and the Koran, have a responsibility to articulate in houses of worship what these sacred scriptures have to say about our responsibility to the poor--both individually and as a nation. To live out their prophetic responsibilities, it is essential for members of the clergy to decry the outrageous happenings in such places as Darfur, and even to explain what they believe God is leading them to say about the war in Iraq. But when the clergy start telling their members how to vote or putting out voter guides that overtly make one political party the incarnation of evil and the other the "God" party, something has gone wrong in the land. Such clergy members and their churches should be made to suffer the consequences of such actions.

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