Every two or four years the debate continues. All of us would (hopefully) agree that we preachers must speak directly to the application of biblical principles when they touch the political world. (From John the Baptist telling soldiers to no longer steal; to Jesus telling his hearers to pay Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what his God’s; to the Old Testament prophets, we have manifold examples).
But I live in the United States in 2008. And we have a couple of legal advantages as American churches: we don’t have to pay property tax (in some places churches don’t have to pay sales tax), and people can take specific types of donations to our churches off of what they have to declare as taxable income. The presumption is that this policy increases donations to our churches and the government believes (sometimes fairly, sometimes not) that churches give a benefit to society that outweighs the lost taxes.
What they ask in return is that, while we can speak/preach to specific moral/societal issues, we cannot endorse specific candidates. The issue, yes. The person, no.
And in most recent election cycles there have been those who have pushed that. I have in my files a copy of the notorious brochure by Randall Terry from 1992 declaring that anyone who votes for Bill Clinton is not a Christian or is going to hell (or something like that).
This year again, the issue has raised its hoary head. The Alliance Defense Fund is recruiting churches to directly challenge the ban on tax-exempt churches endorsing political candidates from the pulpit.
Two weeks from this coming Sunday (on Sept. 28) they have an unknown number of churches who are going to challenge the ban and endorse candidates from the pulpit. They are trying to draw charges so that they can challenge the ban in court.
You can find an article about this in the Washington Monthly here.
Part 2 of this is tomorrow