ADF Challenges Church, State Divide

Alliance Defense Fund sure loves a good brouhaha!

Still stinging from their loss here in New York – you know, when the Arizona-based group sued New York Governor David Paterson for recognizing out-of-state marriages – ADF’s now cooking up another overbearing protest.

Federal law prohibits churches and the such from endorsing a particular political candidate. As tax-exempt organizations, they’re supposed to sit on their hands and leave matters to the voters. Distraught over this church/state organization, ADF’s urging houses of worship to back candidates, thus forcing a Supreme Court showdown:

The battle over the clergy’s privileges, rights and responsibilities in the political world is not new. Politicians of all stripes court the support — explicit or otherwise — of religious leaders. Allegations surface every political season of a preacher crossing the line.

What is different is the Alliance Defense Fund’s direct challenge to the rules that govern tax-exempt organizations. Rather than wait for the IRS to investigate an alleged violation, the organization intends to create dozens of violations and take the U.S. government to court on First Amendment grounds.

“We’re looking for churches that are serious-minded about this, churches that understand both the risks and the benefits,” Stanley said, referring to the chance that they could lose their coveted tax-exempt status or could set a precedent.

Stanley said three dozen church leaders from more than 20 states have agreed to deliver a political sermon, naming political names.

Not all preacher men and women are backing the ADF’s ridiculous protest. Two Ohio-based pastors are calling on their allies to speak out against what they call a “stunt.”

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  • kurt

    Even the rather detailed articles in some of the newspapers doesn’t give the nuances of this matter. Ministers and other clergy have every right to endorse candidates. Ordination does not take away First Amendment rights. They may list their names in campaign ads or appear in political commericals. A Church or Congregation — distinct from the individual minister — may not spend church funds to support a political candidate. A congregation could not pay for a political ad in a newspaper, print palm cards, etc.

    ADF is suggesting the IRS is restricting the first amendment rights. That is not true if it is a matter of a church (or other religious organization) rather than an individual minister. But the other side — groups like Protestants and Other Americans United — are not clear as well.

    It is an unresolved point of law as to if a minister making an endorsement from the pulpit is prohibited. Is the minister speaking for himself or is this an official statement of the church? Has any money really been spend? Do we want the government reviewing the content of sermons?

    Both sides are being assholes here. One of the reasons the sermon issue is unresolved is that the vast majority of preachers would never do this, not because the law might prohibit it but because they find it offensive to include political endorsement within the context of worship. Certainly Catholics strictly forbid their priests and deacons from doing this.

  • Cath

    Kurt: How are the First Amendment (separation of church and state) supporters being assholes?

    I’d like to know how to report illegal congregational endorsements.

    If congregations want to endorse candidates, they need to form committees and give up their nonprofit 501(c)3 status in favor of 501(c)4. No tax deductions for political speech!

  • kurt

    “I’d like to know how to report illegal congregational endorsements.”

    Make a copy of the document in which the congregation (not the minister) made the endorsement and bring it to your local IRS office.

    “How are the First Amendment (separation of church and state) supporters being assholes?”

    thre have been comments in the paper in which they suggest that ministers cannot make endorsement. Ministers have the same First Amendment rights everyone else has. The issue is using Church funds to promote a candidate.

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