Crossing The Line: Religious Right Activists Plump For Politics In The Pulpit
Rob Boston printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Apr 30, 2008 at 09:36:46 AM EST
The Family Research Council (FRC) has big plans for this election year - perhaps even legally questionable ones.

Kenyn Cureton, FRC's vice president for church ministries, appeared April 22 on Religious Right activist Janet Folger's "Faith2Action" radio program, discussing his organization's plans for mobilizing pastors this year. He may have been a little too frank.

During the discussion, Folger mentioned that members of her church were thinking of voting for U.S. Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The idea that another Christian might dare to disagree with Folger on politics was apparently too much for her to bear.

"It just seems to me that the messages are somehow not reaching the congregations," Folger said. "Is it the pastors that need to speak more clearly? What's the answer?"

"I think that's the case," Cureton replied. "The pastors need to speak clearly about it. I'll tell you we are working with the Alliance Defense Fund on a series of sermons this fall for pastors to preach, so that they educate their people on the issues.

"We're gonna be talking about the value of life, the value of family and the value of freedom, basically talking about abortion and stem-cell research," he continued, "and then also about the gay agenda and then finally about our Christian heritage and how it's being stripped from every corner of society. And then finally we're gonna be doing a candidate comparison message that is going to ask pastors to cross the line."

"Really?" said Folger. "What do you mean `cross the line'? You're going to be suggesting they tell people who to vote for?"

Cureton, perhaps realizing he was speaking too candidly, began to back-pedal.

"We're going," he said, "to prompt pastors and say to them that, you know, we really believe that they need to challenge some of the things, some of the thinking that we have going on in our society, which is that separation of church and state doctrine, that we really need to preach the Bible on these issues and apply them to the things that are going on in the culture today."

I can't wait to see the Alliance Defense Fund's "candidate comparison." The IRS has been quite clear that documents that purport to compare candidates must be objective, fair and cover a range of issues if they're going to be distributed by churches and other tax-exempt charities. I have a feeling that's not what the ADF and the FRC have in mind, since their goal seems to be persuading people not to vote for Democrats.  

Folger went on to assert that churches can "explain here's where the candidates stand, here's what the Bible says and people can draw that conclusion, but we need to make sure that it's clear not only what the Bible says but also where those candidates stand."

She concluded by wondering what would happen if a bunch of pastors would openly "cross the legal line" and added, "I think sometimes we need to do it anyway, to obey a higher authority than the one that represents our government. When the two are at odds, it's God we obey, much like Daniel."

My guess is that if anyone challenges the FRC on its scofflaw plans, the organization will insist that all it wants pastors to do is talk about issues. But discussion of issues is permissible, hence no need to "cross the line."

What's not permitted is for houses of worship to tie those issues to an individual's campaign and distribute material that makes one candidate look like a saint and the other a sinner.

What might happen if some religious leaders decided to listen to the FRC and cross the line? Their churches could be sanctioned by the IRS - audited, fined or stripped of their tax-exempt status. As my colleague Joe Conn pointed out recently on Americans United's blog, the IRS has just warned houses of worship not to venture down this partisan road.

Since the FRC and the ADF have a plan for this year, AU and other defenders of church-state separation must be as well. We'll be reading the ADF's sample sermons, examining its "candidate comparison" and warning houses of worship to keep partisan material designed to influence voters out of the pews.

The vast majority of clergy happily obey the law. Those who don't can expect a visit from the IRS.

Above all, we'll be reminding religious leaders why some lines are better left uncrossed.




Display:
I'm surprised we haven't seen this issue wind up in the courts. The basic issue would, IMO, be one of "free exercise of religious beliefs" versus an interpretation of IRS regulations. Given how much the federal judiciary has been packed with social conservatives this would be quite a case.
Recently, during a discussion about this issue, I brought up the example of a pastor telling his flock to "go out and vote your conscience" and nothing more. The response from the atheist side was a lot of shouting and telling me that  any minister shouldn't even be talking about voting even in passing. I think this is a bit extreme so I will ask you your opinion on the matter.

by Frank Frey on Wed Apr 30, 2008 at 11:29:42 AM EST
as is voter registration.

My pastor just says, "exercise your liberties, go vote" and leaves it at that. Suits me - I go to church for worship, otherwise I could just stay home and watch the Sunday morning gabfest.

by NancyP on Wed Apr 30, 2008 at 05:02:41 PM EST
Parent



A few years ago, there were "voter's guides" in the pews of the church I attended (I never found out who put them there).

They were all very clear on who to vote for and why.  It was VERY partisan.  Clearly- vote for __ because he/she is a good Christian (and is lockstep with us on these issues).  Don't vote for ____ because he/she is one of those evil liberals.

I've seen others during other more recent election years that weren't as overtly partisan- but you could easily read between the lines.

I don't know what's happened in the last 3 or so years.  It's been that long since I've been in a church (the dominionists drove us out).

I do know that some of the dominionists in the church were pressuring people to vote strictly conservative (pointing out who to vote for and who you should not consider) as of the last election held while we still attended church.

If the government investigated the churches in this county- I'd bet that a lot would be in deep water!

This development doesn't surprise me at all- they're getting bolder and more determined all the time.


by ArchaeoBob on Wed Apr 30, 2008 at 12:25:41 PM EST

I don't know how the italics were inserted in my post.


by ArchaeoBob on Wed Apr 30, 2008 at 03:36:22 PM EST
Parent


The issue has been litigated at least once. A church near Binghamton, NY, placed an ad in USA Today in 1992, telling people not to vote for Bill Clinton. The IRS pulled the church's tax exemption, and Pat Robertson's attorneys sued on behalf of the church. In court, they made a free speech argument -- and lost.

I can't see a statement like "vote your conscience" being a problem. But if you had a race where one candidate was pro-choice and the other pro-life, and the pastor said, "Don't vote for anyone who is pro-choice," that would be considered an endorsement of the other candidate.

The IRS website has more info here:
http://www.irs.gov/charities/charitable/article/0,,id=155030,00.h tml

by Rob Boston on Wed Apr 30, 2008 at 01:20:13 PM EST

Rob,

Thanks for your input. The link is especially helpful. Based on my experience there are a few atheists who should read these documents.

by Frank Frey on Wed Apr 30, 2008 at 02:44:09 PM EST
Parent



Rick Scarborough tells audiences that it is legal for the minister to proclaim from the pulpit who he is voting for. If memory serves me, the HAPC in Houston is saying the same thing.

by wilkyjr on Wed Apr 30, 2008 at 05:31:33 PM EST

Pure and simple greed! If these pastors are so driven by conscience to turn their churches in to right-wing political organizations, why don't they just give up their tax exempt status? We fought a revolution based on the principle of "no taxation without representation". I think we need a new revolution against the churches on the principle "no representation without taxation". If you don't want to contribute to this country, you should keep your mouth shut about how it's run. Interestingly, the only political statement Jesus ever made was to tell people to pay their taxes, which is the one thing these churches don't want to do.

by Dave on Wed Apr 30, 2008 at 06:51:13 PM EST


WWW Talk To Action


Dominionism Hiding in Plain Sight
Dominionism has been an evolving movement for a half century. Fed by two main streams, it has becoming a roaring current, tearing through American......
By Frederick Clarkson (8 comments)
Chancy Combo: Why The Founders Were Not Fans Of Preacher-Politicians
Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump has vowed to repeal a federal law that bars houses of worship (and other tax-exempt non-profits) from endorsing......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Beware The Gender Unicorn: Franklin Graham Takes Aim At The Transgender Community
Part of my job involves monitoring the activities of Religious Right groups, which means every day my email box receives messages from groups like......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
The Politics of Fear
Joseph Ellsworth McWilliams was born on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma.  He moved to New York City and became a Communist.  Later on he......
By wilkyjr (3 comments)
Persecution-Free Park: Religious Freedom Still Not Under Attack In America
I just got back from a week-long vacation with my wife and son. We were in Acadia National Park in Maine.On our second day......
By Rob Boston (3 comments)
Mike Pence and The Roots of the Right-Wing "Political Correctness" Conspiracy Theory
The term "Political Correctness" was hijacked by right-wing ideologues in the late 1980s to trivialize and disparage concern for basic human rights for people......
By Chip Berlet (4 comments)
Mike Pence in 2006 spearheaded a mean-spirited plan to deport all undocumented immigrants
Many of us know Indiana Governor Mike Pence as a nasty homophobe with a carefully-crafted respectable demeanor. But did you know that In 2006,......
By Chip Berlet (5 comments)
What's Past is Prologue: Dominionism is Still Rising
For a half century, a theocratic political movement has been rising in the U.S.  Like any large, successful movement in history, it has a......
By Frederick Clarkson (4 comments)
For Salon.com readers - On Donald Trump and William S. Lind
For readers clicking on the first link in Paul Rosenberg's Salon.com interview with Bruce Wilson, here is a link to my recent report (first......
By Bruce Wilson (3 comments)
Education For Everyone: In Defense Of `Government Schools'
Over the weekend, The New York Times ran a story about a trend among far-right conservatives in Kansas who call public schools "government schools."The......
By Rob Boston (6 comments)
Southern Churches and July 4th Celebrations
I have noticed a growing trend that is spreading like a prairie wild fire regarding July 4th.  Churches are  celebrating the holiday as never......
By wilkyjr (11 comments)
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 (1 comment)
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 (4 comments)

Extremely obnoxious protesters at WitchsFest NYC: connected to NAR?
In July of this year, some extremely loud, obnoxious Christian-identified protesters showed up at WitchsFest, an annual Pagan street fair here in NYC.  Here's an account of the protest by Pagan writer Heather Greene......
Diane Vera (2 comments)
Capitalism and the Attack on the Imago Dei
I joined this site today, having been linked here by Crooksandliars' Blog Roundup. I thought I'd put up something I put up previously on my Wordpress blog and also at the DailyKos. As will......
Xulon (0 comments)
History of attitudes towards poverty and the churches.
Jesus is said to have stated that "The Poor will always be with you" and some Christians have used that to refuse to try to help the poor, because "they will always be with......
ArchaeoBob (13 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 (2 comments)
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 (7 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 (1 comment)
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 (1 comment)
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 (3 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 (0 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 (11 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 (2 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 (1 comment)
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 (2 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 (1 comment)

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.