A recent article in the LA Times examines efforts on the religious right to challenge those rules. Basically, they want to keep their tax exemptions, while being able to advocate explicitly for candidates and viewpoints. The net effect of this is a tax-payer subsidy to their political views.
This new activism has substantial muscle behind it: a cadre of experienced Christian organizers and some of the conservative movement's most generous donors, who are setting up technologically sophisticated operations to reach pastors and their congregations in battleground states....What happens when a church becomes a political advocacy organization more than a church? One of the pastors profiled in the article admits that some of his longtime parishioners with different political views have left the parish. But he doesn't care: he is fired up with politics.
Both Republican and Democratic strategists say that pastors have already helped unleash an army of voters to shape the GOP primary contests in Iowa and South Carolina, two states with large numbers of conservative Christians. They are making plans to do the same in states that are even more important to next year's general election. Those include Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Virginia and Colorado, where evangelical voters make up about a quarter of the electorate and their participation could greatly aid Republicans.
If this seems like an attack on the rules that separate church and state, it is a very deliberate one.
As pastors speak out on political matters, they've drawn admonitions from groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which warns that such activism could jeopardize their churches' nonprofit status. But the religious leaders are bolstered by well-funded Christian legal organizations supporting their cause.I'm sure I don't have to remind this audience of the IRS investigation of All Saints Pasadena a few years ago for preaching an anti-war sermon. Seems the rules are different for the right wing.
The most prominent — the Alliance Defense Fund, a group based in Scottsdale, Ariz., that spent $32 million in fiscal year 2010 — is challenging a 1954 tax code amendment that prohibits pastors, as leaders of tax-exempt organizations, from supporting or opposing candidates from the pulpit. The group sponsors Pulpit Freedom Sunday, in which it offers free legal representation to churches whose pastors preach about political candidates and are then audited by the Internal Revenue Service. (So far, no IRS investigations have been triggered.)
And since Rep Bachmann and Gov Perry are making explicit their connections to the religious right wing in their efforts to win the Republican nomination, I suspect we'll see even more of this.
Indeed the connections are already deep between the religious right-wing and the politicians, as Congressional staffers are sent to be trained by them.
This spring, four House Republicans used money from their Congressional office accounts to send five staff members to a training seminar run by a conservative Christian group in Indiana that is leading the charge in the state for an amendment to ban gay marriage.Apparently, this is perfectly legal. So the reports of the demise of the religious right as a political force are decidedly premature.
JCF points us to an essay by Wayne Besen bemoaning the absence of liberal Christians to push back against this mobilization, as media and popular culture allow the fundies to speak for Christians.
Time and again, I’m disillusioned by the lack of support from liberal and mainstream Christian organizations. It seems they are either afraid to offend their most conservative members or they are mired in passivity that allows extremists to define their faith.So, let's discuss.
This lack of coherent opposition has led to a dire situation where Religious Right backed presidential candidates are vying to eliminate or reduce social safety nets, persecute immigrants, undermine working people, shred the middle class, turn the poor into destitute beggars, and roll back minority rights.
This reluctance to stand up and speak out has created a hazardous vacuum where only the shrill and unreasonable voices of fundamentalism are heard. Instead of the dialogue that many progressives of faith claim to desire, this perceived weakness creates a lopsided right wing monologue, which is having a deleterious effect on our nation and the world.
- What is the proper place of politicking from the pulpit?
- Should churches enjoy tax-exemption while becoming explicitly political?
- Are liberal Christians really absent from the fray?