Evangelical Call for Endorsements

Jesus ate with reviled tax collectors, a scandal to religious authorities at the time, but as far as I can … Continued

Jesus ate with reviled tax collectors, a scandal to religious authorities at the time, but as far as I can tell he never challenged tax laws by endorsing a candidate for office. Now comes the Alliance Defense Fund, an evangelical ACLU, to encourage gospel preachers to turn their sermons into partisan stump speeches three Sundays from now, and the tax laws be damned.

The ADF is recruiting preachers to challenge IRS rules that prohibit tax-exempt churches from engaging in partisan politics, step up to the pulpit Sept. 28 and endorse a candidate.

ADF officials say this will be a courageous act of civil disobedience to defend free speech. It’s really just a stunt by a conservative Christian organization to get evangelical Revs. to rev up the base for the Republican Party ticket. ADF was founded years ago by leaders of more than 30 Christian groups, including Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, a born-again convert to the McCain-Palin Republican Party ticket.

Not that conservative evangelicals are the only churchgoers who appreciate a good stump speech under the cross on Sunday morning. Democratic candidates have been known to increase their church attendance in campaign seasons, especially in African-American churches. In too many churches, the long liturgical season between Easter and Advent isn’t “Ordinary Time,” it’s “Campaign Time.”

It’s clearly Campaign Time for the ADF. “The (Sept. 28) sermon will be an evaluation of conditions for office in light of scripture and doctrine. They will make a specific recommendation from the pulpit about how the congregation would vote,” ADF attorney Erik Stanley told the Post. “They could oppose a candidate. They could oppose both candidates. They could endorse a candidate. They could focus on a federal, state or local election.”

Stanley said the goal is to trigger an IRS investigation of a church that can be challenged in federal court, perhaps in the U.S. Supreme Court. But the IRS investigates dozens of complaints about church/preacher electioneering each year. Earlier this year, the IRS opened and closed an investigation of the United Church of Christ for inviting member Barack Obama to speak at its 2007 General Synod. The federal agency rarely enforces the 1954 rule that forbids churches to support or oppose candidates for elected office. The IRS hasn’t revoked a church’s tax-exempt status since 1992, when a New York church placed an ad asking “How then can we vote for Bill Clinton?”

It’s hard to believe anyone who follows Stanley’s advise will more brazenly challenge the IRS than Gus Booth, pastor of Warroad (Minn.) Community Church. In a May 18 sermon, Booth told his congregation that “if you are a Christian, you cannot support Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.” Then he wrote the IRS explaining what he’d done. Americans United for Separation of Church and State has asked the IRS to investigate.

It’s all done for political, not spiritual effect. The ADF, Booth and other pastors know they are free to endorse candidates — as pastors John Hagee, Rod Parsley and others so ably demonstrated this year. The IRS just doesn’t want them to do it from the pulpit, on church letterhead or in their official capacity as leader of a tax-exempt congregation.

Churches and other charitable/educational non-profits are tax exempt because they have agreed NOT to participate in the partisan election process. It’s a deal they make, in part to save billions of dollars a year, in part to protect them from political influence, and in part because they are called — at least in theory — to a higher allegiance that transcends political candidates or parties or even national boundaries.

By the way, congregations and other nonprofit organizations have every right to engage in partisan political activity. All they have to do is form a separate political action committee, which has a different tax status and must follow campaign finance laws.

Meanwhile, ordained clergy and their tax-exempt congregations also are free to engage in the nonpartisan political process by speaking up for or working for justice, peace and compassion — or against violence, racism, sexism — and other issues found in scripture and doctrine. They can do that from their Sunday pulpits in their official roles as ministers of the gospel.

And if they want to let candidates know how they feel, invite them over to eat.

About

  • Pam

    I think it’s time to revoke tax-exempt status for all churches. I don’t see any reason for it to begin with. It’s abused by charlatans who incorporate as “churches” and have a few friends over for a party every Sunday so they can claim to hold “services.” This is all that’s required.Revoking this nonsensical status would be a huge boon to the treasury – and then the silly preachers can tell their parishoners who to vote for all they want.

  • robin szcz

    While churches can keep their financial records from being exposed because of their non-profit status, it should be a requirement of all their parishioners that the church, each year, distribute and explain, their assets and liabilities. The fact that ministers have been, for generations, hiding the amount of money they take in from not just the government but the people who are donating it should tell us a great deal about how close to Jesus many of these pastors really are.

  • Joe

    I think it’s a great idea to revoke the tax-exempt. Let the hate breeders reap their oats

  • Arminius

    “revoke the privileges of the tax-exempt”…. Well, maybe, but be careful.A careful examination, trying one’s best to put aside all prejudice, might find that many churches do more good than harm. Not all churches, to be sure. If you must revoke all churches’ non-profit status, then might as well take out the Boy Scouts, the various civic groups, etc., since many of these have religious leanings. And how about groups like the United Way? Is the Red Cross next?One really good suggestion here was full disclosure for all non-profit organizations. I would personally love to see this for assorted megachurches and right-wing organizations.

  • Angela

    All I can say is we never talk about elections, politicians or the like in the sanctuary on Sunday but I know, what I believe, so I vote from my moral beliefs. Don’t want or need my pastor to speak for me about my vote.

  • Jdude

    ‘Jesus ate with reviled tax collectors, a scandal to religious authorities at the time, but as far as I can tell he never challenged tax laws by endorsing a candidate for office.’Are you really this stupid? Rome wasn’t a democracy with free elections, there were no candidates to endorse. As far as I can tell, you don’t know much about the bible or what Jesus taught.Churches may not be able to endorse a candidate from the pulpit but they can teach what the bible says about the issues (abortion, gay marriage etc.)and ask their congregations compare this to where the candidates stand on these issues.It’s funny that churches can lose their tax exempt status for specifically endorsing a candidtae for office but many other tax exempt organisations openly endorse candidates without fear of losing theirs.

  • johnc

    Did rev wrights church lose their tax status…. noooooof course not . He’s black and that woud be discrimination of course. But those white evangelicals try any of that stuff and they will get whacked…you bet.

  • Arminius

    JohnC,Did Wright ever endorse a political candidate? If he did, do you have references? I don’t like Wright either, but the fact that he is black has nothing to do with it. I hope I do not detect the putrid scent of racism in your post.

  • Arminius

    Angela said,”All I can say is we never talk about elections, politicians or the like in the sanctuary on Sunday but I know, what I believe, so I vote from my moral beliefs. Don’t want or need my pastor to speak for me about my vote.”Me: And that is exactly how it should be, Angela. Same goes for me.

  • thebob.bob

    “Did rev wrights church lose their tax status…. noooooof course not . He’s black and that woud be discrimination of course. But those white evangelicals try any of that stuff and they will get whacked…you bet.”So you’re OK with it as long as long as all church’s lose their exemptions? Sounds good to me. End taxpayer subsidies of all religion.

  • Arminius

    To all those advocating taxing all churches: is there any legal basis here for doing that which would not include other non-religious non-profit organizations? Or is this simply your prejudice speaking?

  • Dana Pintago

    I have no problem with revoking tax exempt status on all non profit organizations. The way the laws are currently written anyone can set up a “Non profit organization” and get tax exempt status. Non profit does not mean you don’t make any money. It means you spend what you get. All you have to do is fill out the paperwork and follow the rules.If you are giving for a tax break, then you are giving for the wrong reason. If you are voting for your pocketbook, then you are voting for the wrong reason. It does not take rocket science to figure which political party has lost their moral compass. The Tophet’s of Moloch are alive and well in the 21st century. It’s called “Choice” the “Wrong Choice.”Dana Pintago

  • Arminius

    “I have no problem with revoking tax exempt status on all non profit organizations.”Really? There goes the Red Cross. Know anybody that has had a transfusion lately? They have a certain reputation for saving lives – or does that not matter? Of course, we could support the Red Cross with federal subsidies…. or make it a for-profit organization, which would probably raise the cost of a transfusion by a factor of 10. Hell, the cost of health care is high enough already! Look before you leap, everybody.

  • Lee

    It’s not ethical for the pastor to tell the congregation how to vote. His guidance is on moral duty, and his/her opinion can’t be held to the same standard as his/knowledge of God’s word.If the pastor is deceived by a politican, then he helps in the deception of his flock. If the politician or lobbiests pay money to the pastor to endorse him, then he brings corruption into the church and betrays the trust he has from his parish.The pastor only has a limited time on church days to deliver a sermon. If he spends his time praising a politician instead of the Lord, he bretrays his Lord and Savior by promoting Mamon over God.Those who want to push a political agenda in a church sees the authority of the pastor as another advertising tool, and undermines the organised church in a demonic way. For a pastor to fall for this commercial hype of Christ’s passion and crucifixion only shows the pastor should never have been ordained at all.A pastor who turns his church into a den of theives by dividing the congregation with outside politics may end up having a millstone placed around his neck for all eternity. And a well deserved one, too.The churhc’s one duty is to say that legal voting is a moral and civic duty in a democracy. All Christians chould vote, and they should vote according to their own conscience. Pastors should not encourage or discourage their congregation from voting one way or the other, and they blaspheme when they say which way is God’s way. Only God knows that.

  • Tim

    The first amendment prohibits the establishment of a national religion. The “separation of church and state” is the phrase Jefferson used to describe the this prohibition –it’s not in the constitution! In recent decades Jefferson’s words have been twisted by the media, and even taught in our schools as synonymous to “Religion and Government must be mutually exclusive”. Churches should be able to endorse anyone they choose. My vote goes to the first candidate that stands up and says God should not be chased out of government.

  • Tom L

    Christian = someone who has empowered him/herself to mind your business for you.It doesn’t matter whether Christ did it, or would condone it. Evangelical christianity is not about Christ, it’s about imposing their values on the rest of us.My view is that all tax exemptions should be rescinded. If they can’t get their parishoners to pay their taxes, then they should face extinction. (And it can’t happen too soon.)

  • Jdude

    Tom L, you are a hypcrite. The government run schools teach my children that homosexuality is normal and natural, that sex outside of marriage is morally OK, and that abortion is a choice and morally OK yet it is the christians that are imposing their values on the rest of us?

  • Arminius

    I am in full agreement that any church that openly supports a political candidate, of whatever stripe, should have its tax exemption status revoked.But to those here howling to revoke each and every tax exemption: are you aware that all private schools are tax exempt? Did you ever attend one? I did. Many of those schools would die without that status. Damnit, this is NOT a black and white issue, and your proposed ‘silver bullets’ are all wishful thinking.

  • Adelaidea1

    The evangelical right is blood thirsty. They never see a war that they don’t like. They will vote for McCain who is an admitted serial adulterer. I haven’t heard them condemn the pregnancy of unmarried, 17 year old Bristol Palin.How they distort the Christian message! Jesus was a peace maker and cautioned repeatedly about the sins of fornication and adultery.And the “faith”based initiative–giving our taxes to preachers–isn’t that unconstitutional?

  • Mike M

    My prayer: Dear God, Please protect me from you followers. Amen

  • Daniel in the LIon’s Den

    jdudeYou are the hypocrite, and oh Brother! what a hypocrite you are. Under your scheme, public school teachers would not treat all children the same, but would give preferential treatment to some, and discriminate against others. If you want your children to grow up being homophobic, and otherwise to have a special feeling of social superiority and entitlement above and beyond just plain people, can’t you instill that in them, in the evenings after they get home, and on Saturdays and Sudnays?You and all your conservative Christian snob brethern are just like you friend Sarah Palin, plastic and shallow people, who don’t have enough sense to know how you have twisted up Christianity into something that is ugly and coarse and rude.

  • Jesus

    Well if you don’t want the government teching your kids facts, then just home school um, or move to the middle east…they will teach your kids that Homosexuals must die, get stoned in the streets…is that what you want?

  • Jdude

    My you liberals are judgemental and intolerent, spewing hate at me and you don’t know anything about me,yet you call me a snob and shallow. I never said what public schools should teach or that they should discriminate. My only point was that the public schools force their moral teachings on christians and Tom L accuses christians of forcing their values on everyone.

  • Mike M

    jdude, Isn’t that the frying pan calling the kettle black? Christians are a lot more intolerant than liberals in general. I’m still waiting for a Christian to show me any historical reference of Jesus Christ. You can’t find any. The only one is from 300 or 400 AD, by a Bishop who was known to lie to further the teaching of the church. Theologians have pretty much discredited his writings.

  • Jdude

    It’s funny how you seem to know my opinion on everything, that I have a scheme for the public schools that teaches intolerance, that I teach my children to be homophobic and that homosexuals should be killed, that I have twisted christianity into something coarse, ugly and rude. You are only basing this on your own prejudices and stereotypes of christians. I never advocated anything that you attacked me for. I am more tolerant than either of you.

  • Jdude

    Mike MI didn’t know we were debating the existence of Jesus. Read the histories of Yosef Ben Matiyahu whose writing mention Jesus (around 70 A.D.) He was a jewish historian not a christian.

  • Jdude

    You could also read the Quran. It talks about Jesus as well. There are more if you’d like me to list them.

  • Jdude

    or the writings of Tacitus………..

  • Jdude

    Well, gotta go. Love you all and God bless!

  • Mike M

    jdude, Show me some writings by Jewish historians written while Jesus was alive. They mention Jesus the Pirate, and other Jews named Jesus ( a common name at the time), but no mention of the one who raised the dead, healed the sick, or fed the multitudes. It seems to me that everyone would have been writing about that. The writings you mention were all done many years after, Tacitus calls Pontius Pilate a procurator, when he was actually a prefect (obviously didn’t know what he was writing about). These writings have all been suspect. It was allowed to lie, and plagiarize in the early days of Christianity if it was for the good of the Church. You don’t need to list anymore as they were all written years after Christ supposedly lived.

  • NotSoGreatScot

    JDude – The writings of Yosef Ben Matityahu (a.k.a) Josephus) that mention Jesus are believed to have been written around 93 C.E., but that is probably the earliest surviving non-religious writing to mention Jesus, some 60 years after his ministry.

  • NotSoGreatScot

    Mike M: – I’m not so sure that claims of itinerant preachers performing miracles were all that news worthy in the 1st century – but that is off topic. All those who think that pastors should be allowed to endorse candidates from their pulpit need to be reminded of the phrase – “One God, One Emperor”.

  • Your Love Inspires

    Please take your politics out of my faith. The candidates claiming to take the high road are the meanest, most dishonest hypocrites on the planet as are their cronies like James Dobson with his Focus on the Family crew. Take a good look at the last 8 years and say it isn’t so…

  • Daniel in the Lion’s Den

    JdudeMy point was that teachers in the public schools cannot promote one religion over another, anymore than the President can. That would be an insult to taxpayers who have many religious beliefs, or none at all.If you do not know this, then maybe you should start thinking about it. It is not the schools’ job to instill a dislike of gays. The schools are suppose to keep order, not promote bullying, which is what homophobia leads to.For your information, and in case you have not thought of it before, gay people are Americans, too, and they are taxpayers too. Of course they are not going to favor a program of public school sponsored homophobia, are they? You are not thinking; you’re not using your brain. Just think, before you say such silly things, in the future.

  • FMAinMass

    Oh My God! What’s happening to our country and the Constitution? What are we becoming? Think about the long term implications here. We really want our spiritual leaders telling us how to vote? Are you kidding? Then what will be so special about America? Land of the FREE? Remember why people left their home countries and settled here a couple hundred years ago? Oh My God, forgive us Lord!

  • Jeff

    It is very sad the way God is being used by the political agendas. Just take a look at McCain and Palin. They are going to be a continuance of the Bush agenda, blurring the lines between church and state. We will be a theocracy before long and our beloved democracy that so many fought and died for to achieve and protect will be a distant memory. The founding fathers are probably rolling in their graves.God help us… more lies,”holy wars” and crusades to come if these people get their way, and they do not even reflect the teaching of Jesus with their hypocritical propaganda.

  • Anonymous

    Wait Just A MinuteDoes this mean you approve of Bush’s handling of the war?

  • DZ

    With regard to taxation, I have no desire to eliminate the tax exempt status of churches or other non-profit groups. I do want to eliminate the property tax exemption for churches that no other non-profit receives. This exemption forces atheists like me to subsidize the free services received by churches from the state.BTW, I belong to a number of non-profit organizations that would be considered liberal or left-wing. We do not endorse candidates or parties, and all lobbying is done through separate organizations that are not tax exempt.

  • Farmaz

    “Meanwhile, ordained clergy and their tax-exempt congregations also are free to engage in the nonpartisan political process by speaking up for or working for justice, peace and compassion — or against violence, racism, sexism — and other issues found in scripture and doctrine. They can do that from their Sunday pulpits in their official roles as ministers of the gospel.And if they want to let candidates know how they feel, invite them over to eat.”Amen. Selah.

  • HARVEY

    I am a Christian. I find it interesting that so many of the comments I’ve just read seem to not come from a simple basic realization that we are a free country. Freedom means that the ADF can try to “recruit” pastors to some sort of civil disobedience, just like all the protestors outside of the two recent national party convention. And freedom means those on the “other side” can encourage their own kind of political persuasion. And, like the protestors at the conventions, if they do cross the line of what’s lawful, there are consequences. That’s another part of freedom: the decision as to whether to follow the civil rules or not, knowing that there are consequences for disobeying. I’m thankful we don’t cut off hands or the like as punishments, although at times I think it might be an effective deterrent. But it’s uncivil.There is some discussion as to whether Jesus even lived. I don’t need anyone to find some kind of historical “proof” that the world accepts to believe. That’s what FAITH is all about. And I’m thankful that in this country I have the inalienable right to my own faith. Freedom to believe as I do; freedom for you to criticize me, I guess.As for Palin’s daughter, I don’t want ot the be the “first one to cast a stone” her way. Her sin is actually no greater than any other I commit on a daily basis. It’s just more obvious. And I’m thankful that God’s character is full of mercy and forgiveness. Who are we to speculate on or judge her position in God’s eyes? There are consequences for every choice, good or bad. I’m sure she’s living with some major consequences, one of which is the discussion I’ve just read about the entire situation. How many pregnant teenagers do you know? If none, then you live a pretty sheltered existence. Give her a break. Leave her alone.In summary, if a church agrees to tax-exempt status and then the governing board or executives decide to push that boundary by preaching a political agenda, then they also need to realize that there are consequences. Jesus even said to give to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s. And if you don’t like what you’re hearing in church, find another one. That’s what freedom is all about.Thanks for listening.

  • Peter James for Congress MD CD4

    the issue can be resolved by Churches becoming unicorporated.In Maryland is appears that a Church and a Church Corporation are two seperate entities.A Church the true body of Christ is not just exempt from taxes, it is immune under the 1st Ammendment.When a Church willingly forms a corporation yo hold property and assets, the entity, a “religous organization”, becomes and entity of the State and not God. You can not serve two masters.Also IRS code 501c3 only applies to corporations, funds, community chests and foundations not unincorporated churches,IRS code 508 also specifically exempts Churchs from having to file 501c3 papers.Churches have been ill advised to both incorporate woth the state and file for 501c3 status.please go to

  • Jdude

    Hey, Daniel in the Lion’s Den – try using your brain. You are confusing endorsing a religion with teaching a value system. Schools’s teach values to our children. Mike M. syated that christians want their values shoved down everyones throat. My point was that the government schools teach a value system that differs with religious teachings, yet he claims it’s the christians forcing their values on society. I never said I wanted homophobia taught in public schools. You read your own bigotry against christians into my comments. You inmply that I am homophobic, which I’m not, and that I apparently don’t know that homosexuals are taxpaying Americans, which I do. You use insults when you can’t discuss the issue intelligently. Don’t put words into my mouth and assume you know my opinion beyond the very narrow statement I made regarding who is forcing their values upon society.

  • Gary

    I find it interesting that factions of the government of America are becomming more socialist everyday. Citizens have rights, but pastors do not. Some from movie/news media can push their immoral, liberal, anti-religion views and it is ok. Let a pastor make a political statement and America cracks with fear. Pastors can say any political thing they want and that does not force congregations to do it. What happened to freedom of speech in Amerika. The liberals, a political party, and some movie/news media are so afraid that someone may suggest morals, values, integrity, principles, and character upon them and that is why they are so legalisitic against faiths in America.

  • Jim

    I AM A CHRISTIAN TO AND DO BELIEVE IN SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE. I DO NOT WANT SOMEONE IN A PULPIT SHOVEING THERE POLITICAL BELIEFS DOWN MY THROAT. MY CREATOR WHOMEVER IT IS GAVE ME A BRAIN TO THINK ON MY OWN. I USE IT EVERY DAY AT WORK, PLAY, WATCHING TV, AND THE LIST GOES ON AND ON. I GUESS THOSE THAT DO NOT HAVE A BRAIN OF THEIR OWN NEED SOMEONE TO STAND IN A PULPIT AND SHOVE THEIR THOUGHTS DOWN THERE THROAT. THOSE PEOPLE ARE UNFORTUNATE TO NOT HAVE A BRAIN TO THINK FOR THEMSELVES. NO CHURCH OR CHURCH RELATED CHARITABLE ORANIZATION SHOULD BE GIVEN TAX EXEMPTION IF THEY ARE GOING TO BE INVOLVED IN THE POLITICAL AGENDA. I AM ALSO ONE WHO BELIEVES THAT CHURCHES SHOULD BE TAXED THAT WOULD EASE OUR NATIONAL DEBT ESPECIALLY AS LARGE AS IT IS NOW. THIS IS JUST A PLOY BY THE RIGHT RING TO GET INVOLVED IN POLITICS. THE LATE SENATOR BARRY GOLD WATER WHOM I ADMIRED GREATLY STATED ON HIS LAST DAY IN OFFICE AND I QUOTE “IF OUR CREATOR WOULD COME BACK TO EARTH TODAY HE WOULD HAVE TO COME IN A DISGUISE AS THE CHURCHES WOULD TAKE HIM OUT AGAIN AND KILL HIM LIKE THEY DID BEFORE” END OF QUOTE. THE PERSON, OR WHATEVER YOU BELIEVE IN CREATED US, OR IF YOU BELIEVE NOBODY CREATED US IS YOUR PERSON OPINION AND I RESPECT IT AS NONE OF US AND I MEAN NONE OF US HAS REALLY SEEN THIS PERSON YET. THERE HAVE BEEN CLAIMS (FOR FINANCIAL GAIN ONLY) OF PEOPLE SEEING THIS PERSON OF WHICH IS SILLY BUT NONE HAVE NEVER BEEN PROVEN. IF THE PERSON THAT I BELIEVE IN CREATED US HE DID NOT PREACH FROM A GOLD DOME OR A GREAT BIG MEGAPLUS BUILDING COSTING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS HE PREACHED FROM A HILL ON DIRT OR SAND. THAT ALONE SHOULD TELL YOU SOMETHING ABOUT CHURCHES AND THEIR WEALTH. IF OUR CREATOR COULD ONLY COME BACK TODAY AND SEE THIS WORLD I THINK HE WOULD HAVE A FEW CHOSEN WORDS TO SAY ABOUT THE MODERN DAY CHURCH AND RELIGION. BUT ONCE AGAIN HE WOULD HAVE TO BE PROTECTED FROM THESE RELIGIOUS FANATICS AS THEY WOULD TAKE HIM OUT AND KILL HIM AGAIN.

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