You may have already heard: The (conservative Christian) Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is asking church leaders to endorse specific candidates on Sunday, September 28th, thereby breaking the law and challenging their own tax-exempt status.
It’s called The Pulpit Initiative:
On Sunday, September 28, 2008, we are seeking pastors who will preach from the pulpit a sermon that addresses the candidates for government office in light of the truth of Scripture. The sermon is intended to challenge the Internal Revenue Code’s restrictions by specifically opposing candidates for office that do not align themselves and their positions with the Scriptural truth. By standing together and speaking with one voice, it is our hope to recapture the rightful place of pastors and churches in American life.
According to The Washington Post, “The ultimate goal is to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a 54-year-old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of worship.”
Of course, that would be foolish. The Supreme Court — even in today’s political climate — is unlikely to overturn any ruling against them. The conservatives stand to jeopardize a pretty good thing.
Part of me wants to see them endorse a candidate (presumably John McCain) solely so they can get their tax exemption revoked.
But it would be much easier if pastors simply respected their congregations enough to let them decide on their own whom to vote for.
Thankfully, other Christians aren’t just sitting back and watching this.
In fact, two pastors in Ohio are organizing a challenge to the ADF:
… [T]he Rev. Eric Williams and the Rev. Robert F. Molsberry… have called for hundreds of clergy to preach on Sept. 21 about the value of the separation of church and state.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State has begun a new website informing readers of what the law is and how they can respond. It’s called Project Fair Play.
Most importantly, if you witness or hear of any pastor endorsing one candidate or the other (and yes, that includes Barack Obama, though I’m thinking we won’t be seeing much of that), please report the violation to AU.