Should we lift the ban on churches endorsing political candidates?

I just read an article about a report from the office of Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican from the state of Iowa.  Even though most Americans favor the prohibition against churches being able to endorse political candidates (a fact that surprised me), he wants the ban lifted.

I’m a little torn on this.  Let me explain why…

First, the most fundamentalist churches are already endorsing political candidates.  Let’s not pretend otherwise.  What this might do though is allow some of the more liberal churches (the ones which, in my view, are more attuned to a sense of personal ethics than a “win at all cost” service to their church/faith) to also endorse political candidates.  So while I don’t think there would be much change in Tea Party church land, I think we might see a change for the candidates I like.

Second, not paying taxes as a church is a product of the separation of church and state.  If you want to play politics, you get to pay taxes (assuming the IRS does its job, which it hasn’t been doing in that regard).  Having churches pay taxes may seem like a great thing, but it would come at the price of taking a chunk out of the wall of separation of church and state.  It does not excite me to dole out exeptions to the separation of church and state.  Sure, the USA would have an immediate influx of funds, but it will mean churches getting their grimy hands over governance.  Over time, as its used for a precedent, that chunk could become something larger and I’m not ok with that.  Ultimately, I’d just as soon keep church and state as separate as possible, and there’s already more intrusion of religion into politics than I think is decent.  I’m not eager to have more.

Of course, churches already do have the grimy hands involved in governance, just not overtly.  I’m not sure how much being open about all of it would change anything (see my first point).  I’m not sure where I stand on this.

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About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.