Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Shackled Pulpits?

There are folks who believe that churches and synogogues have been muzzled by the federal government and that the IRS has been a watchdog enforcing an absolute ban on "all speech that may be regarded as political." What does the IRS have to do with this? Well, it seems that the law in question was inserted into the tax code in 1954, so that any infractions would have a financial penalty (such as losing tax-exempt status). So, they have been trying to repeal the law. The bill in question is a little known piece of proposed legislation with this snappy designation and title:
H.R. 235: To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to protect the religious free exercise and free speech rights of churches and other houses of worship.
All sorts of information (summary, status, etc.) on this bill is available here. Please note that link is not for any particular position on the bill, it is a THOMAS link (Legislative Resource). Where was I? Oh, yes. People pushing for H.R. 235 claim support from "all Americans across all faiths, regardless of their political or religious affiliations." But, I have yet to find support from, say, Asatru or Wicca groups. (A devil's advocate from the madman gallery says, "Yeah, but those groups don't have churches, so maybe they don't count." That is a good point, as GWB has already stated his opinion that Wicca is not a faith.). And maybe I missed it, but I have not seen Muslim support for this bill either. Do the local Imams not feel the same political stranglehold that is afflicting their Christian brethren? When I first read about the bill, it seemed somewhat harmless. I thought that, maybe, it was going to do some good service. But something was nagging at me. Something in the language of the bill itself, or maybe its supporters at hr235.org made me uncomfortable. Like I wasn't hearing the whole story. After doing some quick research, and finding some well-written cases against the bill, I am leaning toward opposing it. It seems to me that churches and synogogues have plenty of political options, and they always have. Religious leaders can speak out from the pulpit and as an officer of the church on any public policy issue. They can speak out for justice and peace all they want; but they cannot come right out and say "... therefore vote for candidate X and against candidate Y." And I am not sure they need that ability. To me, this isn't a question of denied liberties, but rather the checking of special privileges to avoid abuses. Buy you don't have to take my word for it. Check the materials below and register your own opinion. I would be so bold as to venture a guess that most Prophet or Madman visitors will fall on the side of opposing this bill and maintaining a separation between church and state. But whatever your view, drop a few lines so we can debate the pros and cons. Supporting H.R. 235: Opposing H.R. 235: What do you think?


jusfishn67 said...

Churches/Preachers dont need more freedom to bash an unliked candidate than they have now. To be tax free they should be neutral but that will never happen.

smijer said...

Tax laws say that no group can claim tax exempt status if they support political parties and campaigns.

This answer is simple. If the churches want to be political organizations, they can pay their damn taxes same as anybody else.

brainwise said...

That is pretty much where I am leaning as well. How important is it to rally for (or rail against) a particular candidate from the pulpit, really? There seem to be so many other options open to Churches and Synogogues for political dialogue that this change is unnecessary.

Not only that, but it looks like this bill would give preferential treatment to Judeo-Christian institutions, allowing them to skirt the tax laws while leaving other religious institutions/groups (as I mentioned in the post) still subject to said laws.

I cannot see a reason to support this bill. It is unnecessary and, I think, risky -- putting us just one step closer to a Theocracy.

smijer said...

Yeah - I would say one giant step closer - either to a theocracy, or it's inverse - political control of the churches... Imagine how quickly the pols will usurp the church's whole infrastructure if they can raise campaign money tax-free there... From there, they will be able to secure their elective offices, and then start handing out ideological payouts to the churches they've infiltrated.

It makes no sense to me make it more efficient for a pol to use a pulpit than to use a traditional campaign.