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In Theory:

Should politics, religion mix?

October 03, 2008

Several religious leaders across the country told their congregants Sunday which presidential candidate they ought to vote for. It’s an act of civil disobedience meant to force a confrontation over the IRS’ prohibition on tax-exempt organizations from participating in partisan political activities. Should religious leaders have more latitude to discuss politics from the pulpit?

Having a tax-exempt status is not an automatic right for any group that calls itself a church. It is a privilege that requires conformance with reasonable rules. Churches must not tell their members how to vote.

The idea that churchgoers could be told, for instance, that they can vote only for those opposed to abortion is completely improper. Regarding abortion, there is always the unmentioned problem that without some kind of population control, the Earth will soon be unable to sustain us all. We will end up like lemmings that, if not running off over the ledge, will be pushing each other over it.

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However, because many preachers insist on the right to preach politics from the pulpit, and because churches seem to be about the only successful businesses remaining after big housing and banking collapsed, the best solution is simply to start taxing the churches as the big businesses that they are. Let the preachers play politicians to their perfect pleasure.

Jerry Parks

Member, Humanist Assn. of Orange County

I do not think that we have a constitutional problem with religious leaders speaking their convictions on political issues. We are living in a time when biblical and moral issues have become politicized. For example, the sanctity of life and marriage being only between a man and a woman are two biblical issues that have become political issues. Pastors are given the plain command to “preach the Word, be instant in season, out of season,” II Timothy 4:2. Men of God cannot be expected to cease obeying God just because a biblical issue has been politicized. The pulpit should be reserved for the proclamation of the Word of God, and if that is considered political, then so be it.

Pastor Dwight Tomlinson

Liberty Baptist Church

Newport Beach

As a pastor who takes an interest in politics, I think churches should engage in public discourse about what is happening in our communities and society. I believe that our faith does inform our worldview, and it is our faith that compels us to act.

However, I feel that the decision made by those pastors to break the law and endorse candidates is wrong. As a pastor it is my right to address issues. For instance, as a person of faith and as a Christian pastor I am opposing Proposition 8 because I believe in equal marriage rights for all people. However, I do not think it is my place to endorse candidates, and I would not break the law to do so.

I support organizations like Americans United for Separation of Church and State and believe that churches and pastors should not end up like corporate businesses in the pockets of parties and candidates. Instead, we can use our faith to fuel conversations about issues that matter to Americans — issues that matter to Christians (or any faith) — and that we can be a prophetic voice in our world. Do I think we need more political latitude from the pulpit? No, we have all we need as the law stands.

Rev. Sarah Halverson

Fairview Community Church


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