Thursday, October 28, 2010

Politics and the pulpit

I think that partisan politics should ordinarily be absent from the pulpit. Liberals have typically been rather vehement and dogmatic on the subject. The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, which has consistently deplored pulpit advocacy for conservative candidates, summarizes part of the law thus:
.... Churches may not, however, support or oppose candidates for office without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status. This restriction includes a prohibition on endorsements or opposition for a candidate from the pulpit.
The Religion News Service reports "Hoping to avert disaster, Democrats turn to black churches":
.... The Democratic National Committee has dispatched staff to coordinate with black ministers as part of an aggressive get-out-the-vote mobilization, hoping to seize on early voting options in key states.

“We’re making sure that not only on Sunday that pastors encourage their community to go out and vote, but even during the weekday services,” said Regena Thomas, director faith and constituent outreach for the DNC.

Thomas, who is an African Methodist Episcopal pastor from New Jersey, said African-Americans are being encouraged to vote early, even “before and after Bible study.” ....

The Rev. Calvin McKinney, general secretary of the National Baptist Convention, USA, and a New Jersey pastor, said the DNC has worked with state leaders of his denomination to try to avert political disaster. ....

The Rev. Boise Kimber, a Connecticut pastor and a board member of the National Baptist Convention, USA, said he and other black clergy were already building bridges between churches and Democratic candidates even before the DNC came calling. .... [more]
Maybe panic is spreading at this very moment among those worried about religious involvement in politics periling the "wall of separation" between church and state, religion and politics. The ACLU may at this moment be preparing lawsuits, supported by the Baptist Joint Committee and Americans United — all of those who have threatened the tax exempt status of churches who expressly advocated support for or opposition to political candidates. Maybe the IRS is keeping track so they can revoke the tax-exempt status of offending congregations. Perhaps. I'm not holding my breath....

RNS Feature: "Hoping to avert disaster, Democrats turn to black churches"