Responses to Pulpit Freedom Sunday September 30, 2008

Responses to Pulpit Freedom Sunday

Americans United for Separation of Church and State is already filing complaints for the IRS to investigate churches whose pastors participated in Pulpit Freedom Sunday — endorsing a presidential candidate and jeopardizing their church’s tax-exempt status.

“These pastors flagrantly violated the law and now must deal with the consequences,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United.

Continued Lynn, “This is one of the most appalling Religious Right gambits I’ve ever seen. Church leaders are supposed to tend to Americans’ spiritual needs, not behave like partisan political hacks. I urge the IRS to act swiftly in these cases.”

Six churches — whose pastors all endorsed (surprise, surprise) John McCain and Sarah Palin — are mentioned specifically. Here are some of them:

Warroad Community Church, Warroad, Minn.: Pastor Gus Booth told his congregation, “We need to vote for the most righteous of candidates. And it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure that out. The most righteous is John McCain.”

Calvary Chapel, Philadelphia, Pa.: The Rev. Francis Pultro told the congregation, “As Christians it’s clear we should vote for John McCain. He is the only candidate I believe a Christian can vote for.”

First Southern Baptist Church, Buena Park, Calif.: The Rev. Wiley Drake said, “I am angry because the government and the IRS and some Christians have taken away the rights of pastors. I have a right to endorse anybody I doggone well please. And if they don’t like that, too bad….According to my Bible and in my opinion, there is no way in the world a Christian can vote for Barack Hussein Obama. Mr. Obama is not standing up for anything that is tradition in America.”

College students aren’t taking this lightly.

At Iowa State University, both atheist and religious students joined forces to speak out against this violation of church/state separation.

Members of the ISU Atheists and Agnostics Society and representatives of Collegiate United Methodist Church & Wesley Foundation set up booths outside the Parks Library on Friday to voice their disapproval of Pulpit Freedom Sunday.

Anastasia Bodnar, graduate student in agronomy, said she was glad the Atheists and Agnostic Society could work with the Wesley Foundation to speak out against Pulpit Freedom Sunday. She said it is clearly in opposition to laws concerning the separation of church and state, and if tolerated, would be harmful to both institutions.

“That’s not what churches are for,” Bodnar said. “They’re for spirituality and for helping people find their way in life, and charity, and all of these really good things. To take that and dirty it with our current political system, it’s really blasphemous.”

That’s how it should be. Endorsing candidates from the pulpit is bad for all churches. Christians ought to be as upset about Sunday’s activities as atheists.

Do these participating pastors have so little faith in their own congregations that they don’t trust them to vote of their own accord?

(Thanks to Matthew for the link!)

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  • swizzlenuts

    I’m a part of the AAS group for Iowa State, and I felt that having the Methodists with us helped out a lot. We got a lot comments saying, “why are you with the atheists?” The church said they have the same cause as us, to help humanity.

  • Awesomesauce

    Dirty atheists.

  • Sudo

    I don’t care if they talk politics in the pulpit. They just need to pay taxes like everybody else.

  • Thanks for mentioning our event. One of the best parts is the connection we made with the Wesley Foundation. It could be risky for them to associate with us, but they did it anyway. I’m heartened by their openness and willingness to accept others. I hope this can be an example to other secular groups who might be looking for allies.

    The pastor of Collegiate Methodist said that endorsing a specific candidate would only divide his congregation. To him, the issues aren’t as black and white as some pastors make them out to be. He is also concerned about pastors telling people what to think instead of acting as guides.

    It is pleasantly refreshing to find myself agreeing with people of faith, and even enjoying their company. In fact, I’ve started attending their weekly “Think, Pray, Vote” study groups where the intersection of religion and politics is discussed.

    If anyone is interested, here is the pamphlet we handed out. It is heavily based on an Americans United pamphlet, but fits a trifold 8×11 instead of a quadfold 11×14. If you would like a word file of the pamphlet, contact isuaas at gmail.

  • Ned Pepper and Rooster

    I think it is time that all Americans who value their beliefs as their own and understand what that mean to stand up to this obvious intent to theocracizse government.

    If these preachers are going to do as they have done as they intentionally say they will do then they threaten all of us.

    Therefore what needs to be done, as we have a right to do as we are being so threatened, is to take this protest to their churches, inside and outside, and verbally protest this attack on us, the American people, of all walks of life, to be secure in our beliefs and our pursuit of happiness from such dictatorial theocracy!!

  • I agree with Sudo. The moment they’re treated as proper NGOs, preachers should have the right to endorse whomever they will – it’s chuches being exempt from taxes that’s the real problem. But, so long as they are, preachers should obviously shut up about politics.

  • Do these participating pastors have so little faith in their own congregations that they don’t trust them to vote of their own accord?

    Are you kidding? They don’t use the “shepherd and flock” metaphor just for grins.

    Sadly, I don’t think that this will go anywhere. The IRS won’t tax churches, even the ones that violate the law. I’d even put money on that.

  • Good to see this. Investigation should be in order. I’d like to see some tax-exempt status removed for a change… not to be mean, but to show these out of control pastors some enforcement.

  • SarahH

    Well, the Wall Street Journal at least acknowledged that it happened, which is nice to see. (via the Pew Forum)

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