Thursday, August 17, 2006

Family Blah Blah Coming to Maryland

From yesterday's Washington Post:
Conservative Christian radio host James C. Dobson's national organization, Focus on the Family, said yesterday that it will work with affiliated groups in eight battleground states to mobilize evangelical voters in the November elections.

In targeting individual churches the way political organizers traditionally pinpointed certain wards, Focus on the Family is filling a void left by the near-collapse of the Christian Coalition and stepping into an area where recent Republican Party efforts have created resentment among evangelicals. Group to Rally Evangelical Voters

That is an interesting way to put that. "Resentment among evangelicals?" You mean, because the administration promised them everything and gave them nothing? Or are they just resentful because everybody else in the country ignores them?

But here's where it gets interesting. Focus on the Family is a huge organization, tax-exempt. They have their own zip code, thousands of employees. They don't want to blow that, but part of the tax-exempt deal is they are not allowed to endorse candidates.

Hey, here's an idea. Maybe they can make a list of candidates, and use something like they have in Thai restaurants, you know, one chili pepper for a conservative candidate, two chili peppers for a conservative who goes to church, three chili peppers for the ones with a Krystal Klear Konception of where the country needs to go. They can always deny it.
As a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization, Focus on the Family is barred from endorsing candidates. Tom Minnery, vice president of the Colorado-based group, said its efforts would be nonpartisan.

During the 1990s, the Christian Coalition distributed millions of voter guides through churches and played a major role in mobilizing evangelicals. After the Christian Coalition suffered financial and management problems, the Republican Party directly organized conservative Christian congregations in key states in the 2004 presidential race.

When memos leaked about the Bush-Cheney campaign's effort to collect church membership directories, however, the GOP came under sharp criticism from some evangelical leaders. Neither the Federal Election Commission nor the Internal Revenue Service charged Republican officials with any violation, and the GOP never backed away from the tactic. But political strategists came to view church-based organizing as both effective and controversial.

Yeah man, they don't want to have to pay taxes on those love donations. Luckily, under our one-party system of government, only liberal churches have to worry about the IRS hassling them.
In an e-mail message to supporters last week, Focus on the Family said it would partner with its state-level "family policy councils" to "combat voter apathy and encourage Christians to go to the polls" in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, Minnesota, Montana and Tennessee. Minnery, in a telephone interview, said those states were chosen for their "live, hotly contested races."

Maryland? Hey, that's us.

Great. Let's have some fun with these guys when they come to town.
The e-mail said Focus on the Family is looking for volunteer county coordinators whose duties would include "recruiting key evangelical churches." It also is seeking "church coordinators" who would encourage pastors to "speak about Christian citizenship," conduct voter-registration drives, distribute voter guides and run get-out-the-vote efforts.

Those, of course, will be impartial voter guides. No chili-peppers or anything.
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of the Washington-based group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, charged that "Dobson's drive to build a church-based political machine will jeopardize the tax exemption of participating congregations."

Minnery, in response, called Lynn "a bully who wants to clear the field of conservative voices" in politics. "Doing nonpartisan voter registration is perfectly acceptable and legitimate and legal -- and matches what has been done in liberal churches for years," Minnery said.

Wow, a little jumpy, aren't we?

It is hard to get involved in politics without endorsing a candidate, but that's what they have to do. Who checks on them to make sure they play by the rules -- the Bush administration's IRS?

4 Comments:

Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Jim writes,

Those, of course, will be impartial voter guides. No chili-peppers or anything.

Yes, in much the same way NARAL and Planned Parenthood issue so-called "report cards" on the candidates for any number of offices. Why not? Don't voters deserve to know where the candidates stand on any given issue?

For example, the State of Colorado House District 52 has a Democrat that hopes to unseat the Republican incumbent - his name is John Kefalas. Go to this candidate's web site and look over his "issues" page and you would not know where he stands on the issue of "reproductive choice". Since I have communicated with this candidate via email and in person, I know where he stands. He supports Roe v. Wade. But would any other voter know that...esp. a voter concerned about protecting human life? This is where voter guides come in...whether they be conservative or liberal.

The Washington Post reports,

The "Rev." Barry W. Lynn, executive director of the Washington-based group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, charged that "Dobson's drive to build a church-based political machine will jeopardize the tax exemption of participating congregations."

Anyone with half a functioning brain knows that Lynn is a liberal partisan and a secular extremist...not to mention a blowhard (a Jerry Falwell in ACLU drag queen style).

The Washington Post article,

Minnery, in response, called Lynn "a bully who wants to clear the field of conservative voices" in politics.

Yup...that about sums it up. Doesn't Lynn know that conservative-religious groups are every bit as "lawyered up" as liberal groups? Religious conservatives wanting to communicate with sympathetic voters know where to go, what their legal rights are and are prepared to stand up to intimidation tactics, like those utilized by Lynn.

Tough cookies, "Rev." Lynn will just have to go out and look for religious voters sympathetic to his secular extremist vision for America. Oppps! He can't find them? Well, I guess he'll just have to look a little harder...

"Doing nonpartisan voter registration is perfectly acceptable and legitimate and legal -- and matches what has been done in liberal churches for years," Minnery said.

Yes, like that Episcopal Church in Pasadena, CA. I grew up in Southern CA and it was well known that All Saints was involved in political activism. To be fair though, I do not think the IRS action will go anywhere and I do not think it was warranted (esp. given the fact that it is one of those old mainline protestant churches that is literally dying on the vine and living off the money donated to it by now dead congregants).

Wow, a little jumpy, aren't we?

No, not really (hey, you asked...and I do not want to be accused of not answering a direct question).

It is hard to get involved in politics without endorsing a candidate, but that's what they have to do.

No, they don't have to do that...all I had to know about Kerry is that he supports abortion rites and I knew exactly how I wanted to vote. Nobody needed to tell me not to vote for Kerry...all I needed to know is where he stood on that issue.

Who checks on them to make sure they play by the rules -- the Bush administration's IRS?

And I thought only right-wing whackos believed in black helicopters...LOL.

August 18, 2006 8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

August 21, 2006

Churches Can Do Plenty in Advance of Election Day
by Pete Winn, associate editor


You might be surprised what nonprofits are allowed to do when taking part in the political process.

The congressional midterm elections are coming up this fall, and, as it usually does at election time, "the" question has resurfaced: How far can churches and nonprofit groups legally go in terms of involvement?

The answer, according to legal experts like Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, and Mat Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, is that pastors and churches can do plenty.

"What pastors can do is not only encourage their people to be engaged in the political process, and to vote a biblical worldview, but also, they can talk about the key issues of the day," Sekulow told CitizenLink.

Saver, president of Liberty Counsel, points out that most churches and ministries fall under the Internal Revenue Code's guidelines for 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations.

Only one area is specifically prohibited for such groups: advocating for or against candidates.

"Churches and nonprofit organizations may not specifically endorse or oppose a candidate for elective office," Staver explained. "For example, a church cannot say that it corporately supports or opposes a particular candidate — whether it's for local, state or national office."

But Staver said 501(c)3 groups clearly do have the right to engage in educational campaigns during elections.

"That can be done through the distribution of voter guides that clearly indicate the positions of the candidates on certain issues. These voter guides need to cover a number of areas," Staver said. "Certainly, the moral areas can be included, as well."

Staver said churches and nonprofits can also give their specific positions on issues. For example, he said, a church could talk about abortion — and give the biblical reasons for choosing life as opposed to abortion.

"Churches can encourage their members to vote — although they can't tell them who to vote for," he added. "They can also set up nonpartisan voter-registration drives and hold candidate forums, where all officially declared candidates for an office are invited to address the issues and answer questions."

Sekulow said there was a time when Election-Day sermons were common.

"In colonial times, they had Election-Day sermons encouraging the people to vote," he added. "That type of sermon would be fine, even today."

He pointed out that pastors can legally endorse candidates — but only as an individual citizen.

"A pastor can actually work for a candidate's campaign," Staver said. "But he cannot do it on behalf of his church or organization; he can only do it as a private citizen."

Sekulow said political-action organizations, known to the IRS as 501(c)4 groups, may speak more forthrightly on issues than churches can. Focus on the Family Action is a 501(c)4. Though some pastors and Christian leaders head (c)4s, they do so as individuals.

"Action groups are allowed to be much broader in what they can say," he said, "but again it's not the pastor speaking on behalf of the church."

The issue of church involvement seems to invite tough questions. For example, can a pastor legally invite a candidate to speak from the pulpit?

The answer isn't so clear-cut, so both attorneys advocate extreme caution.

"That's always a much more difficult situation, because it depends on the facts and circumstances, and then you run into the whole issue: Does that appearance constitute an endorsement?" Sekulow said. "Under the law as it exists right now, that would be a dangerous move."

Staver said a pastor can clearly bring a candidate up to the pulpit during an election cycle — or acknowledge a candidate who is attending the church that particular day, along with acknowledging other dignitaries who may be there.

"But when the candidate is in the pulpit," Staver said, "he or she should not use that time as a political mandate to encourage people to vote for him or her. The candidate is allowed to speak on biblical and moral issues, but should not actually use that as a political campaign podium.

"I think that's where you really have to be careful, so that the candidate doesn't turn the church service into a political opportunity."

Is a pastor, then, allowed to designate one candidate or another as "the pro-life candidate" or "the pro-family candidate?"

"If a pastor actually preaches from the pulpit regarding an issue, say abortion, and then gives the positions of the candidates, that gets close to the line of actually seeming to endorse a candidate," Staver said.

Sekulow said there's no doubt that a pastor has the freedom to talk about the issue of abortion itself. But after that, it gets more complicated.

"Can they then say, 'This candidate is for abortion, and this candidate is against? That would probably constitute, under the IRS interpretation, endorsement or opposition to a candidate, which is prohibited," he said.

The bottom line: There is a clear rule that must be followed: A church may not endorse or oppose specific candidates. Short of that, there's a lot of leeway for involvement, even if the issue is politics.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Liberty Counsel and the American Center for Law and Justice have guidelines on their Web sites for nonprofit organizations engaging in political activity.

(NOTE: Referral to Web sites not produced by Focus on the Family is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement of the sites' content.)

August 22, 2006 8:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Can they then say, 'This candidate is for abortion, and this candidate is against? That would probably constitute, under the IRS interpretation, endorsement or opposition to a candidate, which is prohibited," he said.
this must be a new interpretation because last election this was legal. when did it change.

August 22, 2006 2:29 PM  
Blogger John Hilston said...

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December 31, 2018 8:05 AM  

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