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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Texas Faith: Why should the government say whether churches can preach politics

If we repeal the laws, does it give a free hand to men like Pastors Hagee, Jeffress, Robertson and others to spew unrestricted hatred towards others, creating chaos and mess up America’s orderly life? Should we extend that kind of free speech to men like Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, if he were to preach in the United States?
 
Mike Ghouse
 
TEXAS FAITH: Why should the government say whether churches can preach politics from the pulpit?
By Wayne Slater | 3:15 pm on August 19, 2014 | Permalink
 
When Christian conservatives gathered recently in Iowa to hear from potential presidential candidates, nothing was a bigger applause line than the idea of allowing politics to be preached from the pulpit. Iowa opens the presidential nominating process with its first-in-the-nation caucuses. Plenty of would-be Republican nominees were there a week ago – including Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas.
 
Religious leaders regularly preach moral issues, both those on the right and the left. But partisan politics has been off limits from the pulpit since the Lyndon B. Johnson administration. Houses of worship are granted tax-exempt status. In return, they’re not allowed to endorse candidates. The Internal Revenue Service is the agency is charged with enforcing the law and withdrawing the tax-exempt status from any offending church. As a practical matter, the IRS hasn’t pursued cases. That prompted a nonprofit atheist organization in 2012 to file suit, demanding a strict separation of church and state. Last month, the suit was dismissed after the IRS assured it “no longer has a policy of non-enforcement against churches.”
 
Daniel Blomberg, legal counsel at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, defended the church side against the lawsuit. In an interview with the on-line site The Daily Signal, Bloomberg raises an issue that increasingly comes up in election years: Should the government have any role limiting what a pastor says in the pulpit during a religious service? So here’s where we are: A law aimed at curbing partisan politics by houses of worship. An agency that’s supposed to uphold the law, but isn’t. Considering the situation as it now stands, what should be done? Should we repeal the law and regulations restricting what pastors can say from the pulpit? Should we actively begin enforcing the law and strip offending houses of worship of their tax-exempt status? Should we simply do what we’re doing now and not enforce the law?
 
That’s this week’s Texas Faith question. Is it time to repeal the law forbidding churches engaged in partisan politics from the pulpit? Our Texas Faith panel of experts weighs in.

 
MIKE GHOUSE, President, Foundation for Pluralism and speaker on interfaith matters, Dallas
 
I am in favor of enforcing the existing laws and pleased to submit my understanding for consideration. The validity of a binding contract signed under the influence of alcohol is always questionable, should a person’s decision to vote a candidate under the influence of clergy be invalid? Does it amount to losing one’s freedom?
 
A few years ago, I was browsing in a store for a pair of new glasses. The lady behind the counter asked me if President’s Bush’s decision to hang Saddam Hussein was right. I said no, the timing was wrong to hang him on the day of Christmas like festival of Muslims. I don’t look anything like Saddam Hussein; but she pursued the inquiry as if I was his brother and would have sympathies for him. Finally, I asked her about her opinion, which she was anxious to answer, “My pastor told me to support the president, the Bible calls for it” I said really? Let me bring the Bible from my car, and please show me where it is written. She protested the need for that and wanted to end the conversation with “I believe my pastor.”
 
The Clergy from the pulpit can positively or negatively influence a large number of congregants. There is nothing wrong with that, but it kills the individual’s spirit through undue influence. The idea of a deliberated vote ensures it was exercised freely for us to remain a free people. We are yet to realize the full potential of the wisdom of our founding fathers and what is encapsulated in our constitution – that Congress has no business in promoting or discouraging any religion to go with all men are created equal.
 
If we repeal the laws, does it give a free hand to men like Pastors Hagee, Jeffress, Robertson and others to spew unrestricted hatred towards others, creating chaos and mess up America’s orderly life? Should we extend that kind of free speech to men like Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, if he were to preach in the United States?
 
Thank God during the Gaza crisis, I wrote, “The conflict should not tear the Jewish and Muslim Americans apart; instead it should bring them together to build a cohesive America, and hopefully cohesive societies across the world where no human has to live in fear of the other. (http://foundationforpluralism.blogspot.com/2014/08/sanity-prayers-for-american-jews-and.html )
 
I visited several Mosques during the month of Ramadan, and in no place did they spill hatred towards Jews, but prayed for the victims and prayed for sanity to prevail, what a blessing, that is what a place of worship ought to be. I did not get a chance to visit churches and synagogues to see if there was any hatred spilled there. We do have the freedom to say whatever we want to say, but if that freedom robs others freedom, that is not freedom anymore. We should retain and enforce the laws on the books.
 
 
Thank you
mike

Mike Ghouse

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Mike Ghouse is a public speaker, thinker, writer and a commentator on Pluralism at work place, politics, religion, society, gender, race, culture, ethnicity, food and foreign policy. All about him is listed in several links at www.MikeGhouse.net and his writings are at www.TheGhousediary.com and 10 other blogs. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day.

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