Church/State Group Goes After Democrats October 31, 2008

Church/State Group Goes After Democrats

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has a long history of going after conservatives and Republicans. But in case you ever need an example of the church/state separation group going after Democrats, here’s a recent example (PDF) where Barack Obama‘s wife Michelle campaigned for him at a meeting of the General Baptist State Convention of North Carolina yesterday. AU’s Executive Director Barry Lynn wants the IRS to investigate:

I write today with information about what appears to be a violation of federal tax law by a non-profit religious organization in North Carolina. I believe this matter warrants the attention of the Internal Revenue Service.

Several media accounts have discussed the appearance of Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, at a meeting of the General Baptist State Convention of North Carolina in Fayetteville Oct. 29. This appearance took on the trappings of a campaign rally, and during it Ms. Obama promoted her husband’s candidacy and appealed for votes.

Federal tax law permits candidates to appear in churches or before religious groups under certain conditions. For example, a candidate may speak in a non-candidate capacity or as part of a non-partisan event designed to educate voters by allowing them to meet candidates and ask questions. In this case, the candidate’s wife represented the candidate and presided over an event that appeared very similar to a standard campaign rally. This is problematic, to say the least.

In short, I believe this appearance by Ms. Obama before this religious group raises a host of issues, and I urge the IRS to investigate the matter.

The IRS should investigate the church’s violation of its tax-exempt status. You can bet if Cindy McCain did the same thing for her husband, we’d be all over the church.

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  • Trouble

    Nothing would please the Christian folk more than those GodlessCommieSocialistTerroristMarxistNaziSatanist heathens to come after a Christian woman.

    This is great news!

    For Obama. 😉

  • Never mind the deep historical connections between African-American religious communities and the Civil Rights movement, let’s piss all over their celebration of the first viable presidential candidacy of an African-American by being a bunch narrow minded atheists jerks.

    No wonder people hate you guys!

  • Epistaxis

    I can’t tell if the above message is supposed to be sarcastic, but the IRS shouldn’t be in the position of deciding which churches deserve a special exception from the law, and it’s good to see that Americans United likewise calls out violations regardless of which party commits them (even though one makes church-state entanglement part of its platform).

  • Aj

    I read it as sarcastic. Otherwise it’s telling us we should be racists otherwise we’re narrow minded jerks, which would be hilarious.

  • nontheist

    The meeting was not held in church though and it was a convention so the person in charge is guilty? A good idea to look into it though I am unsure whether this particular case is a violation. Were attendees Ministers, or other lay people? Are the churches endorsing him to their parishioners? So many questions, so few answers.

  • Aj

    My understanding comes from secular non-profits that explain their actions in relation to the same laws that apply to them. It doesn’t matter whether the building is a church, it’s what kind of meeting is going on in the building. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a church official endorsing candidates or those who they invite officially to speak at their events.

  • Ubi Dubium

    I’m glad to see AU being properly non-partisan in this. The right-wing churches accuse them of only picking on churches who support Republicans, so it’s a good thing to see them leaning on the Democrats too. As an Obama supporter, I was uncomfortable with the appropriateness of Michelle’s appearance at this gathering, so I approve of AU taking action here.

  • timplausible

    American’s United is a great organization. They take their mission seriously, and although the nature of political discourse in the country means that they most often find themselves opposing religious-political entanglements on the right, they have the integrity to fight for church state separation wherever they find it. Bully for them. It’s the way it should be.

  • Pick battles, I say. Is this really going to be constructive? I doubt it. If a church allows a particular candidate to speak or be represented, but not any of the opposing candidates, how likely is it that the congregation isn’t already behind that one person?

    McCain rallies at churches only happen at churches where the congregation already backs McCain. Obama rallies at churches only happen at churches where the congregation already backs Obama. Nader rallies at churches only happen at churches where the congregation already backs Nader.

    I say let them have their masturbatory rallies and find something more constructive to accomplish, yeah?

  • I enjoy watching people defend religion when it’s in the service of their ideology. So, when “fundies” support Republicans it’s bad. When kind-hearted black religious folks support Obama, it’s good because there’s been a long history between black churches and civil rights. Therefore, it’s okay for Michelle Obama to ignore the law! And if you bring this up, you’re against civil rights. Obviously.

    For my part, I hope Hemant was not being sarcastic because I feel he’s right. If it was Cindy McCain in front of a church campaigning for her husband there’d be no doubt in people’s minds, hereabouts, that it is a violation of church and state boundaries.

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