I N T E N T I O N S
Once again I have received my pre-election letter from the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Rev. Lynn takes it upon himself to advise me of the requirements of the IRS 501 (c) (3) regulations for Churches and non-profits regarding pulpit and politics. How condescendingly quaint.
The letter is more of a secularized threat of excommunication than a demonstration of fraternal counsel. From what I know about Rev. Lynn and his organization the letter seems to be born out of his desire to keep in power those with a left leaning agenda rather than a concern for the autonomy of religious organizations. Rev. Lynn obviously has appointed himself the Grand Inquisitor of the pulpit police. But the issue of how pulpit and politics play out in Churches is one that is best dealt with between the pastor and the congregation. So Rev. Lynn should stop sticking his sermon in everyone else’s pulpit.
Of course Rev. Lynn uses the threat of an IRS rectal exam to put the fear of God in pastors who don’t tow the line. And of course where the line is seems to be up to Rev. Lynn to determine. And if pastors, rabbis and others cross the line, the comrades at Americans For the Separation of Church and State will gladly dime you out to the Lois Lerner Legion of the IRS, aka the “Political Activities Referral Committee” (Goebbels would be proud of that name). Well it may be news to Rev. Lynn but at this point what difference does it make if you endorse or not? The IRS has already demonstrated that it will go after any organization or individual that it feels will in anyway hurt the election potential for any democratic party candidate. We know where they have redrawn the line. While I don’t endorse candidates for office, I do endorse issues (which is perfectly allowed by the non-profit tax code) its just that those issues are usually not on the side that the preferred candidates of Rev. Lynn and the IRS endorse.
The Churches have had to wear this free speech muzzle since the 1950’s and what has happened since then is a steady silencing of the voices of religious believers at large to influence policy and other societal norms. Candidates that support the Judeo-Christian values that have helped our society thrive are increasingly marginalized, mocked and even demonized. Hence those who do get elected feel free to use the coercive force of government to reorganize society according to their anti-religious bias. More than that they appoint Judges who gleefully override the will of the people and legislate from the bench. People like Rev. Lynn have done a brilliant job of finding ways to harass those who dare take a brick out of his self-constructed wall of separation. Just check out what is happening to the pastors in Houston.
The requirement that non-profits and Churches not endorse candidates is an IRS regulation that was enacted by Congress and as such it can be repealed. It is certainly not a Constitutional requirement and most likely unconstitutional and the IRS seems to know this since it has never fully enforced the regulation so as to avoid a Court ruling on its constitutionality. Nonetheless whether or not Churches should endorse candidates is better left up to Church leaders and their people. As Catholics we choose not to have officially endorsed candidates not because the IRS says so but because we believe that to do so would be very divisive in our communities and distract from our primary purpose of proclaiming the Gospel. Additionally Catholics with a well-formed conscience who are familiar with Church teaching and Gospel values should in light of these have the ability to make the correct morally informed choices.
There’s a lot to be said about the “separation between Church and state”. Our history shows us that when the Church is too aligned with the state it is a disaster for the Gospel. It is the Church’s function to inform the state as to the demands of the principles of justice and human dignity and the meaning of a well-ordered society. The Church is not trying to create a theocracy but rather assist the state in fulfilling its task of protecting human dignity. That being said I wonder how much longer this arrangement can continue in the US? It seems that groups like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and many others actually seek to marginalize people of faith and supplant our values with secularist values. The end result is that the Church is more and more controlled by the state and under its politically correct gaze.
So this November 4th be a faithful citizen and vote. But before you do inform yourself of the stances the candidates hold (especially local school boards) and the implications of the various ballot propositions. And remember not to engage in moral equivalency: some issues are more important than others. There is no reason not to bring your faith values into the election booth. I know Rev. Lynn thinks to do so is treasonous but actually it is at the core of what liberty is and what it means to live as a free person.
All souls to the polls on Nov. 4!
Love, Fr. John B.
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