News: Church politics bill fails by wide margin

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by go2church, Oct 2, 2002.

  1. go2church

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    Anyone have any thoughts, good, bad, glad it didn't pass? So what do you think? Church politics bill news article

    [ October 18, 2002, 04:29 PM: Message edited by: The Squire ]
     
  2. Squire Robertsson

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    Though I can understand why it failed, I am disappointed. If it had gone through the regular committee process, it would have gotten the simple majority. But the is a big IF, the bill would problably have been killed in committee.
     
  3. Pennsylvania Jim

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  4. Johnv

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    I don't like churches being in the business of politics. If i want politics on a Sunday morning, I'll go to a Republican Rally.
     
  5. ChristianCynic

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    Which is more important?

    (1) Churches should be free to proclaim absolutely anything they choose.

    (2) The government-- under threat of penalty-- must muzzle churches in certain matters to keep them from becoming corrupted.
     
  6. Scott J

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    The interesting thing about this whole matter is that Democrats have used black churches to "get out the vote" for years. The media even showed pictures of Al Gore giving political speeches in large predominately black churches without comment or condemnation in the 2000 campaign. In many instances, civil rights is almost another doctrine. ....But then conservative churches begin to voice their political opinions and we have liberals screaming that tax exempt status requires their silence.

    If 90% of the black vote which Dems now get became 60%, Democrats with their current platform could never win the presidency and there would be enough Republicans in both houses to pass Constitutional Amendments. This is a brash demonstration of hypocrisy for liberals to oppose the very thing which gives them a voice in the first place.
     
  7. stubbornkelly

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    Er, it's a very different thing to give a speech to congregants and for the pastor or any other church officer - as a representative of the church - to campaign for or endorse a political candidate. I don't see the hypocrisy you're talking about. Churches can have a candidate come speak to the congragation, and I'm fairly sure the church structure can legally be used as a meeting place for a candidate to come speak outside of a workship service.

    Al Gore going to predominatly black churches and speaking is far different from that church - as a body campaigning for him.

    Any church can speak out about a political issue, as long as it's not in the context of endorsing a particular candidate or bill. It may be hard to see that distinction (abortion, for instance, is a political issue that pastors speak about), but it's there. And it's an important one to make.

    For me, the question becomes, "Should any and all 501(c)(3) organizations be able to lobby or endorse a candidate?" If not, why are churches different than, say, NARAL (obvious differences of position aside)? Organizations like Planned Parenthood, for example, have separate lobbying arms that are not tax-exempt as 501(c)(3) organizations. I suppose if a church wanted to lobby, they could start a new organization that was not tax-exempt.
     
  8. Scott J

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    You are drawing legalistic distinctions where practical ones do not exist. I grew up in the south. Historically both white and black churches effectively endorsed the Democratic party. This has changed over the past 30 years as the Dems have abandoned important moral positions but it once was the rule, not the exception.

    The Old South and Civil Rights political machines have found ways to avoid the spirit of the law while staying within the letter. For liberals who benefited from this fact over the years to now cry foul when conservatives object to both the spirit and the letter is hypocrisy.
     
  9. stubbornkelly

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    quote:
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    You are drawing legalistic distinctions where practical ones do not exist.
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Am I? How so? I was giving examples of what I understand to be legal and what I understand not to be legal, using the example in your post as a springboard. irs.gov has a page about the limits of non-profits with regard to campaigning or lobbying here. If we can't apply the law, what good is it?

    quote:
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    The Old South and Civil Rights political machines have found ways to avoid the spirit of the law while staying within the letter.
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    What do you think the spirit of the law is in this instance?

    quote:
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    For liberals who benefited from this fact over the years to now cry foul when conservatives object to both the spirit and the letter is hypocrisy.
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    Please remember that conservatives voted against this bill, too. I still don't see what you're talking about, but perhaps once you say what you think the spirit of the law is, it'll be more clear.

    And still, if we expand the lobbying and campaigning abilities of a church with tax exempt status, I should think we'd have to do it for all tax exempt organizations. What makes churches different? But check out form 5768, application of which can secure an allowance for legislative expenditures.

    If a church or any other organization wants to go into the lobbying business, they can choose for forego tax exempt status by way of the 501(c)(3).

    The faulty reasoning used to say that speaking about a moral issue is lobbying is the same faulty reasoning used to claim that laws against certain types of hate speech will make reading or teaching from the Bible illegal.
     
  10. Scott J

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    To prevent politicians from using tax exempt churches as an uncontrolled, undefined resource. This may come in the form of voter transportation, fund raising, etc.

    That largely depends on whether one teaches the Bible like Post-it, Joshua V, etc. or as if it means what it says on topics like homosexuality.

    When activists courts and bureaucrats get ambiguous laws, they often become something different than intended. Unfortunately, hate crimes laws are designed intentionally for the purpose of shutting people up.
     
  11. Scott J

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    Liberals love free speech... unless it is used to disagree with them then "there ought to be a law against..."
     
  12. stubbornkelly

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    Guess I can't be a liberal, then. :rolleyes:

    I have no real problems with lifting the restrictions on lobbying and such by incorporated churches, but if it's not restricted for them, then it shouldn't be restricted for any non-profit.

    That gets me wondering - what kinds of organizations should be eligible for tax exemption? Any at all? It is a benefit, after all, for organizations with a non-financial mission. Should that be done away with?

    What's the purpose of restricting non-profits from lobbying, anyway?

    I'm more than happy to discuss that issue.

    My point is simply that, given the restrictions built into the tax code, churches who choose to incorporate for the tax benefit shouldn't be excepted from the restrictions therein.

    Or, put the other way, to prevent tax exempt organizations from contributing in such uncontrolled, undefined ways? Is it designed to prevent politicians from doing xyz or to prevent the organizations from doing xyz? I know you put it the way of the politicians, but it seems to me that it is also there to prevent organizations from using their tax exempt status to their political advantage.
     
  13. Scott J

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    Control... the only reason the tax code is what it is to start with. Whether you believe in good government or reject the notion, our tax code enables government to encourage activities it sees as beneficial such as buying a home or giving to charities and discourage/not encourage other activities such as sending a kid to a private school or taking an early withdrawl on 401K.

    Which is why I am opposed to all forms of direct taxation. I don't think the legitimate liberties of any organization or individual should be limited or expanded by bureaucratic fiat.

    But realistically... I think maximum latitude should be afforded religious organizations since they are specified for protection by the Constitution. And remember, the intent of the establishment clause was never to prevent religion from having influence on government but to prevent government from ruling over religion.

    Or, put the other way, to prevent tax exempt organizations from contributing in such uncontrolled, undefined ways? Is it designed to prevent politicians from doing xyz or to prevent the organizations from doing xyz? I know you put it the way of the politicians, but it seems to me that it is also there to prevent organizations from using their tax exempt status to their political advantage.</font>[/QUOTE]Organizations, in particular religious ones, have every right to try to exert their influence on government. It is a matter of basic free speech and freedom of religion.

    Further, some of the other non-profit groups you mention receive direct support from Federal funds. These groups are almost all liberal such as the Sierra Club, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, etc. In a remarkable demonstration of idiocy, our government actually funds environmental groups so they can sue the EPA.

    These groups cannot be compared fairly to conservative religious groups that do not receive the same type of support. Supposedly, these are private groups petitioning the government but when liberal groups get government funding to lobby for bigger government... it seems someone found a system.

    [ October 03, 2002, 05:26 PM: Message edited by: Scott J ]
     
  14. Johnv

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    I agree with Stubbornkelly 100% on this issue. [​IMG]
     
  15. Bob Alkire

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    stubbornkelly, just a point of history,during the Revolutionary War and before most of the meeting were held in churches. In fact at the start in England alot of the English called it the Presbyterian revolt. Even after we became an independant country the churches were strong places of political action.
    Even for me as a child, they still were. The law we have on the books today is about 48 years old.
    If I understand the law, a pastor can say who he likes and what bill he likes by cannot say so for the church.
     
  16. Johnv

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    Churches being spiritual centers for political action, social action, or the like is a far cry from a church's prime focus being centers for fund raising, endorsing, and lobbying.

    If a church wants to engage in such activities, let the pastor start a separate non-profit and non-religious entity that engages in those activities, outside of the operation of the church.

    I don't want my tithe or offering going to pay for a candidate's fund raising. If I want to do that, I'll donate to that candidate separately.

    On an added note:

    46 republicans opposed it. Three congressmen who voted against it were also co-sponsors of the bill. If that's not an indication that it was a bad idea, then I don't know what is.

    [ October 03, 2002, 07:59 PM: Message edited by: Johnv ]
     
  17. Pastor_Bob

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    DATE: October 3, 2002
    FROM: Jerry Falwell

    ATTENTION ALL PASTORS: You May Endorse Candidates and Your Church May Distribute Voter Guides

    This Falwell Confidential is sent weekly, without charge, to more than 200,000 pastors/church leaders and to thousands of other lay people and religious/political conservatives nationwide. If you are a pastor, you will no doubt soon be receiving your perennial "scare letter" from Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. He writes many evangelical pastors each election year, warning them that they will lose their tax-exempt status if they comment on the upcoming elections, distribute "Voter Guides" or, God forbid, endorse a candidate.

    Barry Lynn was formerly associated with the American Civil Liberties Union. He claims to be a "Reverend" but when I once asked him to tell me the name of a local church where he actually served as pastor, I did not get a clear answer. I have always suspected that the "Reverend" title is intended to deceive the media and the public into thinking that Lynn is a good pastor who is trying to save the churches from being damaged by illegal involvement in politics. The fact is, Americans United and the American Civil Liberties Union are dedicated to throwing God out of America's public square and converting the U.S. from "one nation under God" into a secular and Godless nation.

    Liberal groups are using this week's defeat of Rep. Walter B. Jones' "Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act" (H.R. 2357) as a means to proclaim that pastors must painstakingly avoid political issues in their pulpits. That bill, which needed a two-thirds vote for passage, was defeated 239-178 (with 15 not voting). While the bill failed, 178 votes is a great beginning toward the ultimate passage of this important religious freedom bill.

    The Jones bill was designed to annul a 48-year-old law that prohibits all tax-exempt groups - including churches - from participating in political activity under the threat of loss of tax-exempt status. However, it is important to note that only one church in the history of our nation has ever lost its tax-exempt status because of political wrongdoings. And in that case - wherein a pastor irresponsibly purchased billboards and newspaper ads telling people not to vote for Bill Clinton - the loss of tax-exempt status lasted for only an hour before being returned.

    To hear Barry Lynn tell it, pastors must now avoid political issues at all costs when addressing their parishioners. He said, "This bill may have been the Religious Right's dream, but it was a nightmare for anyone concerned with the integrity of houses of worship and the political process." Remember, this is a man who would stifle virtually every religious phrase in the American public square.

    The truth is, while Rep. Jones' bill would have afforded desirable government protection of pastors who speak out on moral and political issues without fear of Internal Revenue Service retribution, pastors nonetheless retain an absolute right to speak out on political/social issues in their churches.

    Indeed, the left has influenced many - even many in the Congress - to falsely believe that America's clerics must maintain unconditional silence on issues such as abortion, homosexual rights, pornography and other ills of our society. (Of course, liberal ministers and church leaders are often afforded singular freedoms to speak out on these same issues.) In this age of moral relativism, it remains imperative that pastors vocally instruct their congregations on the key issues of our day.

    I talked yesterday with Grover Norquist, a great conservative and president of Americans For Tax Reform. Mr. Norquist was excited that he had finally convinced the Internal Revenue Service to publish the specifics of what pastors and churches may and may not legally do in election campaigns. I urge all pastors and church leaders to visit the Web site of Americans for Tax Reform (www.atr.org) to learn what is and is not appropriate in regard to church and government involvement. Mr. Norquist and his team pressed the IRS to define, in detail, to what extent tax-exempt religious organizations may properly be involved in the political process. The answers are clearly spelled out on their Web site under the headline, "Know Your Rights!" Every pastor should read this important 25-page document to learn how to properly address political/social issues.

    Here are a few excerpts of what every pastor and church may legally do:

    * Churches may distribute non-partisan voter guides describing candidates' stands on the issues.

    * Churches may engage in non-partisan voter registration drives;

    * Pastors may endorse candidates from the pulpit as long as they make it clear they are doing so as individuals - not as a church endorsement;

    * Churches may invite candidates to attend and speak at events as long as they make the offer available to all candidates for the same office. It is not required that all candidates attend, but rather that they all have the same opportunity to do so;

    * A local church may not endorse a candidate, only the pastor as an individual may do so;

    * Pastors may urge their congregations to write, E-mail or call their elected representatives to lobby for specific legislation;

    * Churches may engage in active lobbying as long as the amount is not "substantial" ("Substantial" has been defined by the courts as 5% of a person's/organization's time or resources.)

    I urge 200,000 evangelical pastors and church leaders to "render unto Caesar" on November 5th by advising their 70 million parishioners to cast "Christian" votes for the men and women who best represent their biblical values.
     
  18. stubbornkelly

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    Of course it's true that a pastor may endorse a candidate -- simply not as a representative of the church (i.e. speaking for the church body). The points made in the article you posted, Pastor Bob, are excellent. Church-goers and church leadership should be made aware that they are not gagged with regards to political speech.

    Any liberal who thinks the points listed are untrue needs to be informed otherwise. Likewise any conservative who interprets the actual restrictions to be more, well, restrictive than they actually are. It does seem that many people, liberal and conservative, hear the facts and extrapolate untruths from them. Everyone seems to be afraid of the slippery slope.

    Thank you for the brief history lesson, Bob. [​IMG] The problem I have isn't with churches - generally - acting politically; it's when churches who have chosen to incorporate for tax benefits go beyond the limits proscribed. But churches do tend to be places where large numbers of people who tend to think similarly on some issues - including political issues - so it makes sense that there would be some political talk, at the very least, among the members.

    On that note . . . . While part of me feels as Johnv does with regard to tithes and offerings being spent for political purposes, that is really a matter of stewardship. If I don't agree with how my money is being spent by my church, I can choose not to give, although I don't think I would suspend giving until after having aired - and heard response to - my concerns.

    I don't support any legislation designed as "what if"s. In fact, other than the "what if" issue, I don't entirely see the need for such restrictions on political speech by non-profits.

    Hence my earlier question about whether or not such restrictions should be in place for any non-profit organization.
     
  19. Bob Alkire

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    ==================================================
    The problem I see I see is that churches need to get to preaching the Gospel and true Bible doctrine. The answers aren't political as much as spiritual!!! The lost aren't going to see things the same way as childern of God and all childern of God don't see things the same(look at this board) and all who say they are christians aren't(we don't know who but God does). If pastors would spend more time teaching and taking the Word to the lost alot of out comes would be better.
    We have turned as a country to the goverment on so many things that we should have turned to God, family and church. I don't think political points is the job of the church but I do think bible doctrine is and that would lead us to alot of our political views.
    Rather than the world taking our christian views we are taking the world views.
     
  20. Farmer's Wife

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    Pastor Bob, is this only referring to incorporated churches? According to the 1st Amendment of the Constitution, Congress shall make NO law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. I don't see how the law can tell a church what a pastor may or may not do if the church has not formed some kind of alliance with the state.
     

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