The Christian Right, the IRS, and Partisan Politics
Chip Berlet printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Oct 23, 2006 at 06:26:32 PM EST
Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates (author info)
The Internal Revenue Service has targeted the All Saints Church in Pasadena, California, which is well-known as a voice of progressive Christian values that extends throughout the Los Angeles area. The IRS investigation could pull the church’s tax-exempt status, and is based in part on a sermon by the Rev. Dr. George F. Regas October 31, 2004, titled “If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush.”

It’s a great sermon. I know Rev. Regas and am certain it was delivered in a rousing a passionate way. Read the sermon (linked above), and then consider why the IRS has not investigated all the churches that have co-sponsored events this fall featuring the obviously partisan pro-Republican rallies and conferences coordinated in part by Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family Action political action spin-off from the tax-exempt Focus on the Family.

Actually, I think churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship should have wide latitude to discuss current events. What I am objecting to is the outlandish and double standard of the IRS under George W. Bush. We all are biased from time to time, but the mote in my eye is tiny compared to the beam of wooden hypocrisy in the eye of the IRS (see Matthew 7:5).

The September Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC was clearly part of a larger national plan by key Christian Right groups to help elect Republican candidates to office in the midterm election. Along with Focus on the Family Action (Dr. James Dobson), other Values Voters Summit sponsors included Americans United to Preserve Marriage (Gary Bauer), and American Family Association Action (Donald Wildmon).

Focus on the Family Action also ran three political action rallies in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Tennessee. According to Max Blumenthal:

A day before appearing at the summit in Washington, Dobson held a stadium-sized get-out-the-vote jamboree in Pittsburgh, disguised as a supposedly nonpartisan "Stand for the Family" rally, on behalf of one of his staunchest backers, Senator Rick Santorum, who trails his Democratic opponent, State Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. There, Dobson took to the podium to warn wavering "value voters": "Whether or not the Republicans deserve the power they were given, the alternatives are downright frightening." (Blumenthal, “With the Party of Dobson.”)

Here is how Focus on the Famly Action billed the event in promotional literature:

Emcee for the evening, Family Research Council President, Tony Perkins, says the values vote is crucial this November because of the internal and external threats facing our nation.
“It’s important for Christians to vote because that’s how we register our opinions by who we vote into office. People who either reflect our values, or people who abhor our values.” Cite

Gee, to whom could they be referring? Let’s see—Republicans reflect our values, and Democrats abhor our values. That was easy decode.

Dobson invited Christians to the event stating that the main issues for 2006 are preserving the family, protecting children and pursuing peace through strength. “We’re here to do something about the dangers and threats that are out there.” Cite

“Peace through Strength” was the slogan of a staunchly right-wing Cold War era anticommunist coalition. Now, fear-mongering about Islamic terrorism forms the basis for the new witch hunts.

The three "Stand for the Family" rallies were designed “to educate and motivate pro-family conservative Christians in three states where there are important races on November's ballot.” Cite The other two rallies were held in St. Paul, Minnesota October 3rd and Nashville, Tennessee October 16th. Cite You can listen to a recording of Dobson’s speech from the Nashville event held at Two Rivers Baptist Church—not currently being investigated by the IRS. -- Part One -- Part Two. According to Tom Minnery, Senior Vice President, Focus on the Family Action, here is the plan for "Helping Eight States Define Marriage:"

Eight more states, Colorado, South Dakota, Virginia, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Arizona, Idaho and Tennessee will vote on marriage amendments this fall. Thanks to your support we are assisting these campaigns around the country.

We are doing that by alerting pastors and our own constituents, by encouraging people to register to vote, and in a few cases even by sending start-up funds because some of these vital efforts are especially strapped for donations. I emphasize that we are only helping out, and were it not for hundreds of dedicated volunteers in each state who are carrying the heaviest load of prayer and perspiration, every one of these campaigns to secure God’s definition of marriage would surely fail.

===By the way, our gay activist opponents here in Colorado dumped nearly a million dollars in advertising into a single city, our home town of Colorado Springs, over the summer. It was a very clever opening salvo against marriage. The campaign simply featured a dog that moos instead of barks, and, obviously, is just “born that way.” We countered quickly with our own whimsical media campaign, and a Web site, If you have a moment, please have a look. You’ll enjoy it. < Cite

Pete Winn of Focus on the Family wrote an article, "'Stand for The Family' to Encourage Values Voters," in which he reported:

Dr. Richard Land, an Oxford-educated Southern Baptist theologian and broadcaster, told CitizenLink his message will be a challenge to all Christians.

"It is every Christian's responsibility to be registered to vote," he explained. "It is every Christian's responsibility to be an informed voter. And it is every Christian's responsibility to vote their values, their beliefs and their convictions, regardless of party loyalty or party affiliation. They have to vote for the values that they understand are taught by the Lord in Scripture — that's part of being salt and light.

It's a message that will admittedly be controversial.

"It may be controversial, but it's biblical," Land said. "Sometimes salt burns and stings and irritates. And the Bible tells us that 'men love darkness rather than light' because their deeds are evil, so they may not like it when we’re bright light, or salty salt, but that doesn't relieve us of the responsibility of being salt and light." Cite

Aware of being criticized for being too partisan toward Republicans, Tony Perkins issued a statement claiming that “The Washington Briefing…was not an opportunity for us to endorse candidates but rather an opportunity for candidates to endorse us and our values.”
Nice try, but on the same front page of the Family Research Council website as Perkins statement was a graphic and text for a promotional book blasting the Democratic Party by name:

With a minimum gift of $25 for your FRC Action Membership receive FREE the book, "The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life."

In The Party of Death, [author] Ponnuru details how left-wing radicals, using abortion as their lever, took over the Democratic Party-and how they have used their power to corrupt our law and politics, abolish our fundamental right to life, and push the envelope in ever more dangerous directions. Cite

Barry Lynn of American United for Separation of Church and State dismissed the claim that the Values Voter Summit was a non-partisan event. “Dobson and his friends are desperately trying to lead the evangelical flock into the Republican fold in November,” Lynn said “They know that their power in Washington depends on maintaining GOP control of Congress.” According to the AUSCS press release, “evidence of the gathering’s partisan purpose continues to mount.” This included other “activities by Dobson, who has announced that FOF will target evangelical churches in eight battleground states for political organizing this fall. The eight just happen to have hotly contested Senate and/or gubernatorial races.” Cite

Even if the Republicans hold on to their balance of power in Congress after the 2006 midterm elections, Katha Pollitt in the Nation magazine warend progressives that they should not be complacent. Pollitt acknowledges that it might “be true that the radical right will never achieve its stated legal goals,” which she listed in 2004 as: “the overturning of Roe v. Wade, passage of the Human Life Amendment, a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage, the reinstatement of prayer and Bible reading in the schools.” And she feels it is even less likely that they will achieve “such dystopian dreams as making Christianity the national religion, abolishing public schools and banning the Pill and divorce.”

Pollitt, however, points out that cheering simply because the Christian Right has so far been unable to push its full agenda through a Republican-controlled Congress, is “like saying the left got nothing from FDR because it didn't get socialism.

The fact is, anyone who thinks the GOP is stiffing its "moral values" backers hasn't been paying attention: George Bush, for one, has been paying them back for the past four years. He's promoted a raft of anti-choice legislation--including the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act and a law making it easier for health professionals to deny women abortions and even birth control for "reasons of conscience." He's packed the federal bench with antichoice reactionaries, and he's seeded the federal bureaucracy and the government's international agencies with hard-line social conservatives like the faith-healing Dr. W. David Hager of the FDA reproductive health panel. These people wield immense power over regulations and funding and the flow of information. Cite

And, apparently, the Christian Right has a bit of influence over at the IRS as well.

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates

The Public Eye: Website of Political Research Associates
Chip's Blog

At the same time that the pastor at All Saints gave his anti-war speech, Ralph Reed, as a regional director of the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign, was working through "friendly" churches. From the New York Times, August 9, 2004:

The Bush campaign sent Mr. Reed to recruit pastors at the annual meeting of the conservative Southern Baptist Convention. According to campaign memorandums, it has asked "people of faith team leaders" to help identify thousands of "friendly congregations" around the country. It asked religious outreach volunteers to petition their pastors to hold voter registration drives, and to speak on behalf of the campaign to Bible studies and church groups.

The campaign has asked volunteers to send in copies of congregational directories for comparison with voter registration rolls - a move some conservative religious leaders have denounced as a violation of the privacy of the church and its members.

Not a word from the IRS!

by Joan Bokaer on Mon Oct 23, 2006 at 07:42:40 PM EST

Hi Joan,

It amazes me that this issue has not gotten more mainstream media attention.

_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Mon Oct 23, 2006 at 11:15:10 PM EST

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