Does US Law Mute Voices of Churches?

By Jane Lampman writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, September 23, 2004 | Go to article overview

Does US Law Mute Voices of Churches?


Jane Lampman writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Religion is striking a high profile in the 2004 campaign. But there are those eager to see it take on a much larger role - both now and in the future.

More than 130 members of the US House of Representatives want to amend the law that prohibits partisan activity - such as political rallies, fundraisers, distribution of political literature, and direct endorsements from the pulpit - by pastors and houses of worship. They hope to do this by inserting a provision into a bill that is already before a House-Senate conference committee - thus avoiding public debate or votes in either body.

Supporters say the provision is needed to restore free speech to religious leaders. Barring political endorsements from the pulpit curtails the First Amendment rights of pastors, they say.

But opponents argue that it would turn houses of worship into campaign vehicles and possibly reshape the America's religious and political landscapes in harmful ways. They worry that political endorsements could divide churches, lead to reconfiguring memberships along political lines, adulterate their spiritual purpose and prophetic role as societal consciences, and even perhaps turn their coffers into unregulated channels for campaign financing.

"Nothing is more important than our spiritual leaders having the right to name candidates who stand for protecting morality," says Rep. Walter Jones (R) of North Carolina, the bill's sponsor. The legislation would permit political speech or "presentations" during services or other church-sponsored gatherings.

But the existing rules have kept religious groups "from being pressured or ensnared into partisan political activity," counters Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The AU criticizes the Bush-Cheney campaign for seeking to obtain church membership rosters for use in this year's campaign.

"Imagine having a church meeting in which people try to decide which candidate to endorse," says the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance. "Clergy are responsible to interpret aspects of our lives from the perspective of scriptures, but that's different from bestowing divine blessing on a candidate."

The Jones bill is named the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act, but some legal experts say it has nothing to do with the First Amendment.

"Free speech is a completely bogus argument," says Robert Tuttle, professor at George Washington University Law School. "The government isn't telling religious leaders they can't talk about anything they want to; it says if you choose to engage in political activity, you are going to be treated under a certain set of rules."

Under current rules, clergy may discuss any issues of public concern during sermons, and houses of worship can engage in civic education and voter-registration activities that are nonpartisan. Clergy may even endorse candidates as individuals. But religious organizations and leaders - as their representatives - may not engage in any partisan political activity.

The ban on electioneering comes from a provision in the Internal Revenue Service code that prohibits tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Such 501(c)(3) groups pay no income tax and can receive tax-deductible contributions.

"The best way to look at this is as a campaign finance regulation that says people can enjoy a tax deduction for charitable contributions to churches and hospitals but not to political campaigns," says Dr. Tuttle.

A church in Vestal, N.Y., for example, lost its tax-exempt status when it published an anti-Clinton ad in a national newspaper. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Does US Law Mute Voices of Churches?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.