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Should church leaders be able to endorse political candidates during their sermons without losing the church’s tax-exempt status?

Asked at Borders, 700 N.H. on March 23, 2005

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Photo of David Galvin

“I think that should be protected by the First Amendment. I think they should be able to say whatever they want.”

Photo of Michael Pippin

“I think that most people should be able to do whatever they want. Just because they are a preacher doesn’t make them any different.”

Photo of Natalie Redding

“I think they should probably just keep to the spiritual side of things.”

Photo of Jason Goolsby

“I feel that on a personal level they should be able to speak freely, but they should do it outside of a church setting.”


Jayhawk226 12 years, 10 months ago

I'm always skeptical of laws that are/can become unenforceable.

Regardless of one's political persuassion(s) here, can this even be enforced respectfully?

David Ryan 12 years, 10 months ago

Ah, what a shame that Americans don't know enough of their history to understand why the founding generation sought to prevent, with the First Amendment, government meddling in religion AND religion meddling in government.

It's a shameful insight into how far and low education in the U.S. has fallen.

What say those people who want a non-American Consitutional government go somewhere where constitutions don't matter and religion seeks to control the laws and government -- say, a nice place like Pakistan, where a woman can be gang raped to punish something one of her family members has done, all under the guise of religious law -- and leave America to those Americans who still believe in and support and defend the Constitution itself?

It's a dangerous time when American citizens misunderstand the Constitution to such an extent that they're willing to act directly in contradition of it, and not see anything wrong with that.

That does not bode well for what our once-enlightened country is supposed to stand for.

tir 12 years, 10 months ago

What about the separation of work and politics? When I'm on the job, Imy boss won't let me push my political agenda at the people I'm serving in order to influence their vote. A minister in the pulpit is on the job, too. Why should ministers be allowed to push politics at the people they are paid to serve? Brownback wants Sunday sermons to turn into political rallies because he expects to benefit from it at the polls. That's the bottom line.

jonas 12 years, 10 months ago

Should they be able to? Yes, probably. Should they? Hell no! But I suppose if you want to bastardize your religion by becoming a mouthpiece for someone who could care less about you or your beliefs except to in regards of how many votes it will bring in for them, to keep their parasitic lives in office alive, then you should be able to. I only feel sorry for the parishioners, who may not know how filthy their shephard has become, or how badly they are being manipulated.

Grundoon Luna 12 years, 10 months ago

DR, couldn't have said it better myself. Mr. Brownshirt clearly has no respect for the consistution! The churches gave their support of the GOP's entire agenda, knowing that the agenda could ultimately see their parish elders eating cat food just to get by, so that other pro-Christian issues be furthered along. This is so wrong.

I can see it now . . . life will imitate art . . . THRONGS of people screaming, "Come and see the violence inherent in the system!! Help, help, I'm being repressed!!!"

Eric Beightel 12 years, 10 months ago

Look, churches claim non-profit (I believe 503c or some damn thing) status when it comes to tax time. This is allowed because they are a non-partisan institution. Once they decide they want to start supporting candidates, fine, but start paying some taxes like the rest of us partisan people. You can't have it both ways.

Eric Beightel 12 years, 10 months ago

In addition, people go to church for guidance and spiritual healing. This is almost always a weakened state when their own ideas and logic can be susupended to put total faith in the message presented at the pulpit. Once we allow ministers/priests/pastors/rabbis, etc. to start espousing their political views from the pulpit, we are allowing persons of great influence to seduce and influence members of their "flock". People go to church for spiritual healing. Religious leaders can speak freely about topics they feel are important: abortion, evolution, capital punishment. It is the responsiblity fo the electorate to investigate teh candidates and find the one that most closely reflects their views. Once churches start endorsing candidates, you have opened a very slippery slope indeed.

That was a very disjointed rant. Sorry. Nature of the blog/response.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 10 months ago

Absolutely not. Church is very big business and probaly should start paying taxes like any other business. Falwell,Robertson and others of tax exempt status are in the business of politics. Falwell was bragging how it took them 25 years to take over the republican party.

kansas_dave 12 years, 10 months ago

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, 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 grievances."

Carmenilla 12 years, 10 months ago

I'm scared. The first 2 people questioned don't seem to think there is anything wrong with it. And I believe that average Kansans don't think there is a conflict of interest there. Don't people see the line between religion and politics eroding? Its on a nationwide and local level. And most people don't even go to church!!! The grassroots movement of the christian right is a powerful one and they are wielding their political clout like a fiery sword.

acg 12 years, 10 months ago

Excellent points today people. I love to see people expressing intelligent thought without insults or recriminations. It makes me smile.

Masttop 12 years, 10 months ago

Anyone, including clergy, can express opinions regarding issues. However, with the special status we afford organized religions, the endorsement and direct support of political candidates is crossing the line of separation of church and state. If you want to be a political lobby or PAC, register and pay your taxes.

Why is it that we see the problems so clearly when fundamentalists in non-christian religions control elections and laws, but when it's a conservative christian agenda being put into law, it's good and righteous?

Oh yeah, my religion is better than yours, and it even trumps the constitution.

Eric Beightel 12 years, 10 months ago

Kansas_dave - I don't feel that this is a first amendment issue in the way that I presume that you do. Of course anyone can say whatever they choose and can support any candidate that they choose. That right is supported by the first amendment. However, by affording religious institutions tax-exempt status, they are essentially being subsidized by the federal government. I'm not entirely comfortable with this situation as is, but churches/synagogues/mosques provide a valuable social tool that benefit most, if not all of society (LINK, AA, NA, etc. are often held at churches). I would argue that if they choose to practice their free speech and endorse specific candidates, they should lose their tax exempt status. They will have then disturbed the balance of benevolent social insitution and entered into the world of political manipulation. They could use soft money to pay their taxes perhaps.

kansas 12 years, 10 months ago

Why don't we all ask the Reverend Fred Phelps this question. See what he thinks.

Jonathan Andrews 12 years, 10 months ago

By law, yes. By moral standards, no. It's almost a loophole, and if the endorsee were paying money to the religious institution IN ANY FORM, to me it's tainted.

Liberty 12 years, 10 months ago

The Churches never used to be taxed until they all jumped on the band wagon and incorporated as a 501c3 tax exempt status UNDER THE IRS (being deceived that this is the right thing for them to do). This is government control of the church plain and simple (State run Churches). The government has no right to control the church, but what has happened here is the fault of the church when they chose, or volunteered to be under the control of government for money's sake instead of under control of Jesus for righteousness sake.

The Churches are supposed to be free from government control totally. That is the separation that is spoken of in the Federalist papers. The church is supposed to be free to influence and speak out for or against government policy and keep it on a moral and good track. Governments left to themselves without Church influence always end up like 1938 Germany, in a socialistic state leading to Communism or fascism. The Church provides the good influence to keep government more honest and Constitutional.

Churches have never been taxed in the United States before the IRS, because they are to be free of governmental control so they can be free to speak out when necessary.

(Just as you all should be.) Governments tax that which they wish to control. Government does not need your money, they can print as much as they want since it is not backed by anything and they own the printing press. They tax you because they want to control you and the Church from speaking out. They also use the tax money to control inflation after they print money out of thin air.

Liberty 12 years, 10 months ago

Slight correction; the money is backed by something, your land, house, car, natural resources, and ability to pay tax toward the debt that the government runs up. They only take or reposses the natural resouces of the U.S. (including your house and land and car) if the tax payers default on the debt that the Corporate Federal Government runs up and bills you, the taxpayer for.

Eric Beightel 12 years, 10 months ago

Apparently the gov't uses our tax dollars to oppress us, not to build roads, fund research, fund education, feed the hungry, support the un-employed, provide for national defense, preserve wildlands, regulate commerce, so on and so forth.

I have no idea how to respond to such a curious post. That just doesn't make any sense.

To rebut, I also don't think the synagogues or mosques are too concerned about being under the control of Jesus for righteousness sake. They do, however enjoy the same tax exempt status as Christian institutions. Otherwise it would be a clear violation of state sponsored religion, which we cannot allow.

I've never heard (read) anyone seriously argue that taxes are just a tool to oppress us. If we were able to keep all of our money and go to church, we will be in a better place? What logic is this?

lunacydetector 12 years, 10 months ago

Churches should not be able to endorse candidates from the pulpit. This is exactly what happened when churches in St. Louis, Florida you name it - when they endorsed John Kerry from the pulpit. They violated their IRS tax exempt status.

kansas_dave 12 years, 10 months ago


Both freedom of speech & the separation of church and state come from the first amendment.

I believe that taxing churches for endorsing candidates would violate both the 'free exercise of religion,' and 'freedom of speech.'

Some people have argued that allowing churches to endorse candidates is a step down a slippary slope which ends with a merging of church and state. I believe that fining churches that endorse candidates puts is a step down the slippery slope that ends free speech.

Do the opponents of this law believe that the state has the power to decide what the legitimate interests of churches are?

I want to see this bill passed to protect people's right to speak and worship as they please.

conservative 12 years, 10 months ago

Absolutely not!

A church leader shouldn't be allowed to endorse a candidate during their sermon any more than a business leader should be allowed to endorse a candidate during a meeting.

Liberty 12 years, 10 months ago

The clause "Separation of Church and State" is not in the Constitution of the United States of America.
It is in the Russian Constitution.

It also does not exist anywhere in the 1st Amendment, or in the Bill of Rights which is the first ten amendments which puts limits on what the government can have the authority to do.

The news media really needs to understand the above fact when they refer to "Separation of Church and State" as if it had something to do with our Constitution in the USA.

joaninkc 12 years, 10 months ago

Dear "Liberty" -- I wonder how you will enjoy your liberty when the churches are running the country. If you go to, you will find Thomas Jefferson's letter to a group of ministers where Jefferson said (and please note the final phrase): "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state. "

Liberty 12 years, 10 months ago

The Churches don't run the country and shouldn't, they are to act as salt and light and lead you to a relationship with God so your sins can be forgiven and put on his Son at the cross.

The duty to run the country is that of the people and then the Government. I am pro-Government. But I am for the restoration of our correct Constitutional government. The Government is to represent the people within the Constitutional limits set on it. (A Constitutionally limited Republic, not a democracy). I totally agree with Thomas Jefferson. He is simply saying that there should not be a State sponsered religion as in England with the Anglican Church. (Forcing everyone to be a Christian or else...) This was a Government running wild using religion for a cover to control the people and their power base.

When the Government has the 501c3 incorporation of Churches (turning them into a business instead of a Church of God, they have violated what Thomas Jefferson was speaking of in your quote. Thanks, it is a great quote that has been twisted to try to make people believe falsely that the Church can not have influence in the Government. It is really intending just the opposite, the Government should not have any control of the Church.

Great point!

geatout 12 years, 10 months ago

It's an absolute violation of the separation of church and state. Sex, politics, and religion are deeply personal endeavors and the two former are best addressed outside the walls of the church. I would find right-wing extremist comments made by a man of the cloth in church to be offensive and to be an imbalance and abuse of power--you'd have to sit through the spewing of a certain ideology and would be defenseless to respond to the brainwashing!

lunacydetector 12 years, 10 months ago

I agree with Liberty's argument. I have changed my mind. Actually, it would be nice.

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