Earlier this Summer, the Bush campaign urged churches to send the church roster of members to the Bush/Cheney reelection committee. When it was called into question the legality and the church’s tax-exempt status, the campaign laughed it off.
Now, Republicans are up in arms over a downloadable pamphlet called “Kerry/Bush Values Comparison Chart”. Bush campaign lawyers are threatening the tax exempt status of churches that distribute these pamphlets.
Doublestandard? Always.Posted on Mon, Oct. 11, 2004
N.C. pastors careful on political topics
RALEIGH, N.C. – Three Sundays are left before the Nov. 2 elections and clergy in some churches are struggling with what to say about presidential politics.
But some have no problem making an endorsement from the pulpit, like the Rev. Ron Watts of Living Waters Christian Community in Durham.
“I’ve never said I’m a Republican or a Democrat,” Watts said. “But it’s pretty evident I’m a Republican. A majority of members appreciate a strong voice coming from the pulpit on issues concerning America.”
Other ministers see political endorsements – overt or subtle – as a problem. There is an IRS code that prohibits tax-exempt organizations, such as churches or mosques, from endorsing political candidates or holding political rallies or fund-raisers.
Last week, a dispute erupted over a Democratic National Committee Web site that urged John Kerry supporters to download and distribute to church groups a “Kerry/Bush Values Comparison Chart.”
Lawyers with the George Bush campaign contended that pastors who encouraged distribution of the chart would be engaging in activity not permitted by the IRS code. Democrats said they would change the language on the site as a result.
In addition to problems with law, many church memberships are split between Republicans and Democrats and siding with one party can create divisions.
“If I were to come out in favor of a candidate, that would certainly make some very happy and others very annoyed,” said the Rev. Samuel Gregory Jones, rector of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Raleigh. “But worse, it would ultimately cause some people to trust me or listen to me less on matters apart from politics.”
Some congregations refuse to bring up politics because they say it’s not their mission.
“We’re here for other kingdom values,” said the Rev. Randy Russell, a pastor at Chapel Hill Bible Church, a congregation that considers itself theologically conservative.
Just how religious people will vote in this election is a hot political issue.
Bush is one of the most openly religious U.S. presidents and has captured the loyalty of many conservative Christians.
Pastors not in a position to make an outright endorsement have found other ways to steer congregants to Bush. They talk about politicians who support “traditional family values,” code for opposition to abortion, homosexual marriage, and stem-cell research.
Amid all the jostling, some have called on people of faith to quit thinking so hard about politics and look inside instead.
Last Sunday, speaking on the subject of “respect for life,” Catholic Bishop F. Joseph Gossman alluded to the recent controversy over whether Catholic politicians should be denied communion if they support abortion rights.
Instead, he asked Catholics to examine their own conscience. “Are we free of serious sin?” Gossman asked.
“Do we live our lives, public and private, according to the Gospel? Do we choose life, serve the least of His brothers and sisters, hunger and thirst for justice and peace? We must believe, not in our own ingenuity and righteousness, but in God’s goodness and mercy and in the love He showers on all of us.”