Memo to Lou Dobbs: Separation of Church and State 101
DonByrd printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri May 11, 2007 at 04:54:19 PM EST
Sometimes I think CNN anchor Lou Dobbs has so much illegal immigration on the brain that it muddies up some of his neurons. When it comes to his understanding of "the separation of church and state," I'd like to respond by quoting the immortal words of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride: "I do not think that means what you think it means."  Read on...
Here's Dobbs panicking over the call of many religious leaders to support comprehensive immigration reform:
The separation of church and state in this country is narrowing. And it is the church, not the state that is encroaching. Our Constitution protects religion from the intrusion or coercion of the state. But we have precious little protection against the political adventurism of all manner of churches and religious organizations.
...
The nation's religious leaders seem hell-bent on ignoring the separation of church and state when it comes to the politically charged issue of illegal immigration.

And in his show this week he offered many jewels like this one:
Many of the nation's religious leaders are ignoring or pushing back or just simply -- simply negating the idea of a separation of church and state in the argument over our illegal immigration crisis.

The separation of church and state - housed in the US Constitution, no matter what religious right leaders tell you (right, Rev. Walker?) - offers 2 fundamental protections: 1) prohibits the government from promoting/coercing religion, and 2) prohibits the government from infringing on religious exercise.

Dobbs gets it exactly wrong. If anything, the separation of church and state protects the rights of churches and religious organizations to speak out on the issues of the day with a prophetic voice. To paraphrase James Dunn, one of the reasons we don't want the arms of the church and state to be in too tight an embrace is precisely so the church can have some swinging room.

What Lou might be thinking about are IRS rules that regulate tax-exempt organizations - including churches - in 2 areas: 1) engaging in political campaigns and 2) lobbying for or against legislation.

The rules against electioneering are straightforward: don't do it. The rules about lobbying have more shades of gray. Here is what they say:

In general, no organization, including a church, may qualify for IRC section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). An IRC section 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.

Legislation includes action by Congress, any state legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, with respect to acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items (such as legislative confirmation of appointive offices), or by the public in a referendum, ballot initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure. It does not include actions by executive, judicial, or administrative bodies.
...
Whether a church's or religious organization's attempts to influence legislation constitute a substantial part of its overall activities is determined on the basis of all the pertinent facts and circumstances in each case. The IRS considers a variety of factors, including the time devoted (by both compensated and volunteer workers) and the expenditures devoted by the organization to the activity, when determining whether the lobbying activity is substantial.


It's not the religion per se of the organization that makes lobbying problematic; it's the non-profit, tax-exempt status. All 501(c)(3) organizations operate under this same "substantial part" test. Religious organizations may lobby Congress, so long as they don't do too much of it, and they can lobby the executive and judicial branches to their hearts' content. So, even if a religious institution engages in improper amounts of lobbying, they haven't directly violated the Constitution. They would have violated their agreement with the Internal Revenue Service.

That would still be serious, for sure, for the religious organization. And if overdone they may have also violated the spirit of church-state separation, in the same way that, say, a journalist who constantly espouses his personal view may have violated the spirit of journalistic objectivity and integrity.

But of all the encroachments on religious liberty we see today, are the urgings of ministers who want to protect the poor and disenfranchised as part of their central mission really, as Dobbs says, "threatening one of our most important constitutional principles, and one of this nation's fundamental doctrines, the separation of church and state?" That's, well, inconceivable.

Sure, we don't want religion becoming a purely political agent - nor should we abide a religious viewpoint dominating or controlling the actions of government. But, in general, religion and politics need not remain separate, and certainly not in the way church and state must. We shouldn't confuse the 2 concerns.

[Cross-posted from the blog of the Baptist Joint Committee]




Display:

WWW Talk To Action


Bitten By A Tiger: Huckabee Must Pay For Unauthorized Use Of Song
Former Arkansas governor and Religious Right favorite Mike Huckabee has not been having a good year.Huckabee won the Iowa GOP caucus in 2008 and......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
Trump Meets Man Who Inspired 2011 Terror Attack Deadlier Than Orlando Shooting
"It appears that the shooter was inspired by various extremist information that was disseminated over the internet" -- President Barack Obama, June 13, 2016,......
By Bruce Wilson (2 comments)
Terrorism as a "Marketing Method"
On the same day in 2011 during which he single-handedly blew up and shot to death 77 Norwegian citizens (mostly teenagers) and injured an......
By Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Let's Can the Name Calling about Islam
President Obama rose to the occasion in the wake of the horror in Orlando. The president made clear in a speech on June 14th......
By Frank Cocozzelli (3 comments)
50 Shades of Patriarchal Grey
In what must be one of the worst public relations disasters in university history, wealthy donors to Baylor University recently took out a full......
By wilkyjr (4 comments)
Pious Proclamation Panned: Iowa's Governor Goes Around The Bend With Bible-Touting Document
Some elected officials have a bad habit of releasing official proclamations lauding the Bible, Christianity or religion generally.We at Americans United find these proclamations......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
Unreasonable Argument: Sometimes What Everyone Knows Just Isn't So
Over the weekend, a group of atheists, humanists, agnostics and others held a "Reason Rally" in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.Thousands......
By Rob Boston (4 comments)
Above The Law?: Ala. Chief Jurist Demands No Accountability
Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is in legal hot water again and has no one to blame but himself - but, as usual, he......
By Rob Boston (11 comments)
Thomas More Was No Patron Of Religious Freedom
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is preparing to kick off its annual Fortnight for Freedom. This year the two weeks of......
By Frank Cocozzelli (3 comments)
Falling Starr
Reports from around the nation are reporting Ken Starr, President of Baylor University, has been fired as head of the Baptist school.  Other stories......
By wilkyjr (7 comments)
Bluegrass Bonanza: Ky. Theocrat Loses Grip On Statehouse Seat
Political news of late has been dominated by three people - Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. They've certainly provided good copy, but......
By Rob Boston (3 comments)
Political Piety Panned: We Don't Need A 'God's Party'
Every few years, a political pundit comes along and proclaims that the Religious Right is dead or on the verge of dying. I started......
By Rob Boston (7 comments)
Trump Campaign Tied To 2nd White Nationalist Party Leader
Even as Donald Trump seeks to tack to the center, and leave behind his earlier, wildly controversial statements on Hispanics and Muslims, mounting evidence......
By Bruce Wilson (4 comments)
Religious Rightism in the Democratic Party has Consequences
Those of us who write about the Religious Right and related matters often find ourselves wishing that we were wrong. Back in 2011 we......
By Frederick Clarkson (9 comments)
No Moore, Please: Ala. Chief Justice May Be Removed From The Bench
Word broke late Friday night that Roy Moore, chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, may be on the verge of losing his job......
By Rob Boston (4 comments)

Alternate economy medical treatment
Dogemperor wrote several times about the alternate economy structure that dominionists have built.  Well, it's actually made the news.  Pretty good article, although it doesn't get into how bad people could be (have been)......
ArchaeoBob (1 comment)
Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (6 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (3 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (4 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (9 comments)
Evangelicals Seduced By Ayn Rand Worship Crypto-Satanism, Suggest Scholars
[update: also see my closely related stories, "Crypto-Cultists" and "Cranks": The Video Paul Ryan Hoped Would Go Away, and The Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand/Satanism Connection Made Simple] "I give people Ayn Rand with trappings" -......
Bruce Wilson (10 comments)
Ted Cruz Anointed By Pastor Who Says Jesus Opposed Minimum Wage, and Constitution Based on the Bible
In the video below, from a July 19-20th, 2013 pastor's rally at a Marriott Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, Tea Party potentate Ted Cruz is blessed by religious right leader David Barton, who claims......
Bruce Wilson (8 comments)
Galt and God: Ayn Randians and Christian Rightists Expand Ties
Ayn Rand's followers find themselves sharing a lot of common ground with the Christian Right these days. The Tea Party, with its stress on righteous liberty and a robust form of capitalism, has been......
JSanford (9 comments)
Witchhunts in Africa and the U.S.A.
Nigerian human rights activist Leo Igwe has recently written at least two blog posts about how some African Pentecostal churches are sending missionaries to Europe and the U.S.A. in an attempt to "re-evangelize the......
Diane Vera (5 comments)
Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (3 comments)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (14 comments)
Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (7 comments)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (10 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (11 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (7 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.