To some pastors the most frightening words they can hear appear to be “separation of church and state” and the veiled “threat of IRS exemption removal” for churches.
For over 160 years separation of church and state was a non-issue. Finally, a liberal leaning Supreme Court justice dug up the statement in a personal letter written by Thomas Jefferson. The judge then decided to reinterpret this statement to make it appear to mean the opposite. Later this was added to IRS policy.
The Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations clearly outlines the standards by which exempt organizations may participate in the political process and should eliminate any fears. It starts by stating that: “churches and religious organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in or intervening in, any political campaign.” While I believe that this is an infringement on the Constitutional guaranteed freedom of speech, the IRS intent is pretty clear. Their statement creates a lot of fear. Many readers stop there. However, they fail to read the next paragraph in the same pamphlet which reads: ”Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances. For example, certain voter education activities (including the presentation of public forums and the publication of voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity”.
Dr. Alveda King, in a recent opinion piece on another subject, stated the following “Thankfully, spiritual leaders are recognizing that we are in a battle of evil against good. Of course, good always prevails in the end. God is good.” I believe that most spiritual leaders are not recognizing the nature of the battle. This is not just a spiritual battle; it is also a day-to-day-here-and-now battle for the soul of our government. Today, most clergy are afraid to take on voter education, to conduct forums and publish voter guides in a non-partisan manner. The church will reach half-way around the world and challenge theocracies and the political bases of despots, dictators, tyrants and oppressive regimes even under fear of death. But they will not actively list Christian moral standards expected of our political candidates. By clearly listing the expected moral standards parishioners can have a clear measure to use in their decisions.
Christians accept Dr. King’s statement that “God is good” and dictates the outcome of all human actions. However, we are expected to actively support God’s guidance. By that standard we should be assured that the elected officials uphold God’s moral standards. God did not give us reasoning ability so we could sit on the sidelines, if so, we wouldn’t have part in our decision for salvation.