So do you want your pastor taking time in the sermon to tell you for whom to vote? That's what you may get in the sermon at Bighorn Canyon Community Church in Rapid City, where Pastor Scott Craig is a big Howie supporter:
Craig said the tax law is sometimes touted as protecting the separation of church and state, but it instead involves government telling churches what to do. He said he is not worried that his nondenominational church could lose its tax-exempt status.
An IRS publication says the law does not prevent pastors from expressing their political views as individuals, but they cannot do so on behalf of their church or at an official church function [Chet Brokaw, "Rapid City candidate for governor urges pastors to endorse candidates," AP via Rapid City Journal, 2010.05.15].
Craig's comment is a mistaken interpretation of separation of church and state. There are all sorts of laws where government tells churches and every other organization what it cannot do. Do Candidate Howie and Pastor Craig want to repeal the laws that block pastors from performing polygamous weddings and human sacrifice as well? And those damnable child abuse laws sure crimp the style of priests who dig altar boys.
The free-speech argument is bogus, and Howie and Craig know it. Pastors are still perfectly free to express their political views outside of church. They just don't get to take advantage of their position, their pulpit, their captive audience, and their non-profit status to spread those views. It's the same for teachers: I'm free to endorse Scott Heidepriem and deride Gordon Howie here on the blog, but if I engage in that advocacy on the job, in front of a classroom of voting college students, you will (and should!) freak out. An educator using his position to promote a specific political agenda on the job is unacceptable (unless you're endorsing a Republican in this state, of course).
Besides, Pastor Craig still has the right to endorse Howie from his pulpit tomorrow morning; he's just not willing to give up his tax-exempt status. He wants special treatment from the government, but he doesn't want any rules accompanying that special treatment. How selfish. How childish. How politically cynical.
This isn't Martin Luther King's advocating civil disobedience to win civil rights for an oppressed minority; this is Gordon Howie's desperate attempt to increase his vote count. He knows he can't win on practical policy issues: Dennis Daugaard, Dave Knudson, and Scott Munsterman all three can wipe the floor with him when talking about issues that actually matter. Howie thus persists in his strategy of manufacturing culture-war non-issues that won't do a thing to balance our state budget, create jobs, or fix roads.
So there's your choice, Republicans: a candidate who tells his supporters to break the law, or reasonable men who concentrate on plans for governing.