“History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.” --Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.
Alliance Defense Fund, operating out of Scottsdale, Arizona, hates gays and lesbians. Well, let’s be perfectly frank: they hate everybody who isn’t like them. But they especially hate gays and lesbians. They testified as witnesses at the same DOMA hearing in which Al Franken (D-MN) eviscerated Tom Minnery of Focus on the Family.
Alliance Defense Fund says they’re “a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth.” And they have lots of money to spend toward that end -$32 million in 2010, according to the Kansas City Star.
Notice the capital-T “Truth” used there. Don’t be confused: the Truth, with a capital-T, is not mundane fact, the sort of truth you find in the observable universe through experimentation or your five senses or through interactions with the natural world. The capital-T Truth is a “higher” truth, a truth free of the bonds of evidence and science and even honesty. Capital-T Truth is Truth set free, a truth you can lie, deceive, and cheat for, and still get to heaven, an end-Truth that justifies the means.
This capital-T Truth is what Thomas Jefferson said made “one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.”
Alliance Defense Fund calls their religious freedom – not yours – “Our First Liberty”. It goes without saying their liberty trumps yours, if you are to get any at all. And that’s what ADF is really all about: stripping the Other of liberty. Another way of looking at it is “accrual of liberty at the expense of others.”
To that end, ADF, decided that not everybody should be able to get married, and involved themselves in the Proposition 8 litigation in California (Perry v. Schwarzenegger). ADF didn’t acquit itself too well there, losing the case for Proposition 8 according to Liberty Council. But they want to double down on the hate now by pushing for the IRS to put an end to regulations that bar religious institutions from involving themselves in politics.
It’s just wrong, says ADF. Writing in The Church Report ADF’s senior legal counsel, Erik Stanley, writes:
“Pastors and churches shouldn’t live in fear of being punished or penalized by the government. Keeping the gospel central to what is preached is not in conflict with addressing the subject of political candidates when warranted. These results show that the desire to keep the gospel central does not mean that pastors want the IRS to regulate their sermons under the threat of revoking their church’s tax-exempt status.”
The Kansas City Star reports that the ADF,
[I]s challenging a 1954 tax code amendment that prohibits pastors, as leaders of tax-exempt organizations, from supporting or opposing candidates from the pulpit. The fund sponsors Pulpit Freedom Sunday, in which it offers free legal representation to churches whose pastors preach about political candidates and are then audited by the Internal Revenue Service. (So far, no IRS investigations have been triggered.)
According to the article in The Church Report, “86 percent of pastors say government shouldn’t regulate sermons.”
That’s one way of looking at it, I suppose. But pastors are free to speak their minds, and even to involve themselves in politics. They just have to be willing to pay taxes then. Don’t they have the courage of their convictions? Apparently there are some, and as has been observed by many, nobody is doing anything about it. The Kansas City Star cites the elections in Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Virginia, and Colorado, as states where pastors “have already helped unleash and army of voters.” And, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State, they will be unleashed in those states again in 2012.
Yet The Church Report presses the old persecution myth:
“Unfortunately, there are groups out there who try to scare pastors into censoring themselves,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of the Texas-based Liberty Institute, a legal defense group, who said he’s been increasingly fielding calls on the topic from preachers. “My encouragement is, ‘Don’t be intimidated from fulfilling what God is calling you to do.’ “
It doesn’t sound as though there is a lot of intimidation going on, if that’s what they call obedience to the law. Yes, it’s illegal. But they’re doing it anyway and nobody is stopping them. In a sense, overturning the 1954 law would simply be punctuating the fact of church interference in politics. As AU puts the case,
Every time Americans United raises this issue, critics carp that we’re trying to stop conservative evangelicals from taking part in politics.
It’s not true. We acknowledge that everyone has the right to participate in politics. But, when theocratic groups use big bucks from shadowy donors and far-right fat cats to forge churches into a partisan political machine with the aim of enacting legislation to make a narrow form of fundamentalism the law of the land, people deserve to know about that.
Secondly, some of the activities being undertaken here may be illegal. Houses of worship are free to speak out on political and social issues, but – as tax-exempt organizations — they are not permitted to become political action committees that seek to elect (or defeat) certain candidates. Under federal tax law, no non-profit organization can do that.
As AU says, “Yet that is exactly what’s happening in some churches.”
In 2010, several Iowa churches openly organized campaigns to remove the Iowa Supreme Court justices from office. Every fall, the Alliance Defense Fund, a Religious Right legal group, prods pastors to flagrantly violate the law by using their pulpits to endorse or oppose candidates.
We shouldn’t be surprised that theocrats want to destroy the line that separates religion from politics. Theocracy is, after all, politicized religion or theologized politics – rule by religious leaders supposedly acting in God’s name. We shouldn’t be surprised but we should oppose it, because the First Amendment and the U.S. Constitution itself are the ultimate targets here of the ADF and other groups, not a 1954 tax code.
 Thomas Jefferson, “Notes on Virginia, Query XVII, The Different Religions Received into the State” The Works of Thomas Jeffersion, Paul L. Ford, ed. (NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904), Vol. IV: 296.