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On Sunday, a group of Tennessee preachers will step into the pulpit and say the only words they’re forbidden by law from speaking in a church.

This Sunday, seven Pastors in Tennessee, 4 of which are in the Nashville area, will endorse a number of candidates for office in this district (TN-05). Among the candidates endorsed will be former Mayor Bill Haslam who is currently running for Governor of the state and David Hall, a businessman who is aiming to oust Rep. Jim Cooper from his Congressional seat.

The article linked above calls it IRS baiting. I call it reasserting our civil rights. The article author looks at this from a one sided view citing “a line between church and state.”

But many mainstream churches recoil from the idea of erasing the line between church and state.[…]

Other ministers and organizations have weighed in on the subject, including Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Land said the church endorses many of the ADF’s initiatives, but “we think the mixing of the sacred nature of the church with the exceedingly worldly nature of politics is … unseemly.”[…]

Lewis Lavine, president of the Center for Nonprofit Management in Nashville, is familiar with the balancing act churches and other nonprofit groups must maintain when they stray near the political arena.

“We have separation of church and state in this country for a reason,” Lavine said. “There should be parameters, and there should be common sense.”[…]

The ADF’s polar opposites, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, issued a statement this week calling pulpit-based lawbreaking “the worst idea ever.”

“Clergy serve as spiritual advisers, not political bosses. Pulpit politicking violates federal tax law and offends the vast majority of church-goers,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, the group’s executive director.

“The nation is already bitterly divided over politics this year. … Now, Religious Right political hacks want to haul that divisiveness into America’s houses of worship.

Of course, calling political opposition, Religious Right political hacks isn’t the least bit divisive, is it? Oh no, not divisive at all.

There’s a problem with their opinions on this. The line they’re talking about, separation of church and state via the first amendment, was erased long ago. According to the ADF, it was erased in 1954 when Senator Lyndon B. Johnson offered an amendment to the Internal Revenue Code to restrict speech by nonprofits. And that it was done without debate or analysis, likely similar to what we are experiencing now with a government passing legislation that the majority of people don’t want (TARP, Health care deform, Cap and Tax…).

Historically, churches had frequently and fervently spoken for and against candidates for government office. Such sermons date from the founding of America, including sermons against Thomas Jefferson for being a deist; sermons opposing William Howard Taft as a Unitarian; and sermons opposing Al Smith in the 1928 presidential election. Churches have also been at the forefront of most of the significant societal and governmental changes in our history including ending segregation and child labor and advancing civil rights.

For 66 years now, churches can’t, obliterating the separation of church and state, that nonexistent for 66 years line they tout so highly in the above article. When government can restrict what a church can and can’t say, there is no line between church and state though other nonprofits, both on the left and right, engage in political speech and actively seek the elections of endorsed candidates without fear of the taxman. Well, unless they support someone other than a Democrat. If you do support Democrats, even to committing fraud, well, you get federal funding.

Oh, Free Speech! Wherefore art thou???

Gone, gone, gone; a long time gone.

Remember McCain-Feingold?

Prayer has been forbidden in public schools citing separation of church and state. So has the Bible. But churches are forbidden to engage in political speech or they will lose nonprofit status. What profit is being taxed, anyway? What does a church produce that makes a profit? They get donations. To even have to justify their existence as a non-profit is a mockery of the separation between church and state.

I suppose if health inspectors can shut down a 7 year old’s lemonade stand they can shut down a church bake sale, too. Of course, licensing isn’t a tax, though it’s money the government confiscates in order to allow such fund raising goes for the same things that our taxes do. If a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, a tax by any other name is still a tax.

Any entity that is affected by politics, regardless of profit status, should have the right to safeguard its interests. That includes churches because to do otherwise means accepting a nonexistent line that was wiped out of existence decades ago. It’s time for this civil disobedience. Support their right to safeguard their interests as much as we are entitled to safeguard our own, individually, with our votes. If it were not for the churches in colonial America, we would not have this nation.


13 Responses to Civil Disobedience, Rightly, Becomes Popular Again

September 2010


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