A Google alert caught my eye on Sunday. It was to a post on a website called LifeNews.com and it was titled “Liberals Are Trying to Intimidate Your Church This Election”. So of course I had to read about this very important issue. The post basically was the standard conservative scare post. Naturally none of their information was correct. What I did find interesting was links to two voter guides. I didn’t know that a church was so concerned with obviously non-religious issues like energy, Voter ID, and Iran.
There’s a deliberate effort led by anti-religion organizations to intimidate churches throughout the nation into remaining silent on the most important issues of our day—primarily abortion. Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter of intimidation to 60,000 targeted churches, warning them to keep quiet.
“Separation of church and state” is used and abused by those who want to silence the voice of believers. Church leaders may be afraid to even broach certain topics for fear of alienation or worse. There’s even threats of having their 501(c)(3) status revoked by the IRS. This is nothing more than a tactic of manipulation and fear.
The author is referring to a letter sent by Americans United for Separation of Church and State in advance of the Pulpit Freedom Sunday protests that were set for October 7th.
In early September, Americans United sent letters to more than 60,000 congregations in all 50 states in order to inform them that while they may “speak out on religious, moral and political issues,” they “are barred from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office and may not intervene directly or indirectly in partisan campaigns.”
The letters, signed by AU’s Lynn, also pointed out that tax-exempt organizations are free to sponsor voter registration drives and candidate forums if they are legitimately non-partisan.
Lynn went on to suggest that congregations be skeptical of “voter guides” because they “are often thinly veiled partisan materials” and that the IRS may penalize a house of worship that distributes a partisan guide rather than the group that produced it.
The letters weren’t sent to intimidate churches only to remind them that it is against the law to electioneer – endorsing or opposing candidates for public office or intervening in partisan campaigns.
Churches can speak out about issues that have some relationship to their religion like abortion, gay marriage, or religious freedom in general. Churches can’t speak out by supporting James Doe who is running for dog catcher because his views match the church’s views. A church also can’t tell it’s members to vote for Democrats only – for example.
The LifeNews post linked to two voter guides that it claimed had been “legally approved for distribution by churches and non-profit organizations.” The guides are from the website of Life Issues Institute which hosts the guides created by the Gospel of Life Ministries.
Whew… lots of layers…
I’m not a legal expert but each guide attempts to provide “both sides” although in a slanted way. One guide compares President Obama’s views and Mitt Romney’s views and the 2nd guide compares the Democratic and Republican party platforms.
The problem I see is the issues the guide chooses to highlight. Here is an image of the bottom of page two of the Obama vs Romney guide:
I can understand that a majority of the issues highlighted in the guide could be seen as religious issues such as abortion, stem cell research, and the HHS contraceptive rule, but I didn’t know that Immigration was a religious concern.
In the party platform guide almost the entire 2nd page included issues that would be even more of stretch to be a religious concern. The issues on that page were energy, voter ID, immigration (again), and Iran.
Energy?? Voter ID?? Iran??
A case could be made that while the guides do have both sides the presentation is biased toward Republicans especially because half the issues in the platform guide really have no relation to the typical concerns of a religious group. Those non-religious issues happen to match the campaign of the main Republican candidate.
If I were a member of a church handing out these guides I would be concerned it was putting its tax exemption in jeopardy.