The good Dr. Blanchard finds my weekend post on Gordon Howie's call for pastors to break the law (or at least sacrifice their churches' tax-exempt status to entreat divine intervention in Howie's doomed candidacy) "interesting, thoughtful, serious, and wrong." The good professor writes a response of at least equivalent worth.
Given this very interesting question of politics from the pulpit, I offer the latest Madville Times poll here in the right sidebar. Forget which candidate is asking for it: very simply, I want to know if you want your pastor or rabbi or other spiritual leader to endorse political candidates from the pulpit.
Put it in personal terms: picture yourself in church. Pastor steps up for the sermon. First words out of his or her mouth, "Today I'm going to tell you why you should vote for ___." How would you feel? What would you say to the pastor afterwards? What would you talk about over coffee in the fellowship hall?
Back to Dr. Blanchard: his effort to equate Martin Luther King to local collared yokels telling parishioners to vote for Gordon fails. King's advocacy of civil disobedience to fight racial discrimination was not "political campaign activity" of the sort forbidden to churches and other non-profits by the IRS rules Gordon Howie wants pastors to violate.
But Dr. Blanchard agrees that Gordon Howie wants pastors to break the law. Dr. Blanchard contends something bigger, that the targeted law is unconstitutional, in that it restricts what the pastor says in his constitutionally protected sermon. I'm inclined to argue allowing endorsements from the pulpit is still an inappropriate use of a pulpit funded in part by tax breaks given to the non-profit organization that makes that pulpit available for sermons.
I could go the other direction though: I could accept Dr. Blanchard's argument, repeal the IRS rules against political campaign intervention, and allow every non-profit organization to use its resources to endorse candidates and advocate for ballot initiatives. Let Jon Lauck solicit donations for his boss Senator Thune's campaign fund at his MAAC Chautauqua event tonight. Let MAAC solicit Democratic campaign volunteers and sublease their office as local Dems HQ this fall (since Dems are the big arts supporters around here, anyway!). Let the Children's Home Society hand out Daugaard flyers at their fundraisers.
Anyone have a problem with that? Is there any problem with letting tax-exempt organizations take advantage of their government-subsidized status to advocate for who serves in government?
Update 10:42 CDT: More knowledge from the north: citing James Madison and Roger Williams, Dr. Newquist says keep that wall of separation high.
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