I was driving around today on work business, listening to of all things: NPR. Who knew? Oddly enough, it gives me time to listen to national and world news affairs when I would otherwise be listening to terrible* music. I find it to be pretty neutral as far as bias goes and It even seems to keep the news distinct, if monotone. The broadcast topic was all on a bunch of American Clergy on Sunday all Speaking politics from their pulpits. The IRS wants to take away their Tax-exempt status because they are "going from a religious group to a political group." These churches did this as peaceful protest to The very thing the IRS did. To be fair, the different churches involved all had different messages, including supporting both major candidates. The issue is not who the churches support, its that they support anyone at all.
The churches are claiming two things gives them the right, nay, the responsibility to preach politics from the pulpit. 1st, Freedom of speech, one of those things that is both massively important and ridiculously insane to do at the same time. There is such a fine line between speech that is free and speech that is destructive. No one can draw it. The promise that anyone can say anything and not be arrested for it. I miss those days. The other thing giving them this "duty" is "separation of church and state" They claim it was put in the 1st amendment to protect the religion from government. That the government cannot do anything to harm a religion. So they cannot tax them for speaking about politics. Right?
Well, lets post that troublesome first amendment and then talk all about how awesome it is: (From www.usconstitution.net a fairly useful site!)
Amendment 1 - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified
12/15/1791. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the
freedom of speech, or
of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
assemble, and to petition
the Government for a redress of
So, the government cannot support or prohibit any religion. The government will leave your religion alone. You have to leave the government alone though. Why, it doesn't say that, does it? It does. By having a religion try to put a specific candidate into office, you are effectively trying to set our government up to follow your religion, which it cannot do. This is why we set up recognized religions as Tax-exempt. We don't touch them, they don't touch us.
And of Freedom of Speech? It is also guaranteed by the first amendment. I lets me state any opinion, as long As I can declare it first. For instance, In my opinion, President Bush is a doodie-head.** Nothing being said there is treason, and opinions are what is being protected against. So, that allows priests, holy men and more to state their personal opinion. They can do that.
The combination of the two is the crux of the issue. If a church priest says "I support candidate X," then he is stating his opinion and it is no big deal. If a church priest has the church itself say "We (the Church) support candidate X, and so should you," That church is no longer in safe first amendment territory. They didn't leave the government alone. Why? Well, to start, any person or organization can give up any rights they have at any time. A confession of a crime is an acknowledgement that the confessed is giving up their 5Th amendment rights. If I said something that committed treason, like speaking secrets to an enemy, then I could have my stupid butt arrested for saying it.
So, when a church gives up its rights to be ignored by the government by preaching politics from pulpits, The Government is well within its rights to do anything to the church. They could tax them, charge them with crimes (even relating to being religious!) and more. The government gets free reign over the churches rights to free speech and religion. So, churches out there: please keep your religion out of my government. Thank you. Feel free to as citizens of the US, support candidate X, but not in churches. Cause, then you give the government free rein on your rights. And never give up your rights. Ever.
* - I think its not bad personally, but others would disagree.
** - My opinion really is that President Bush is a Doodie-head.