By The David
It is time for all of us who care about preserving the Constitution and the very necessary separation of Church and State to act.
First understand, I do not speak against those who follow a religion or those who look toward a God for comfort. I am not anti-Christian, anti-Jew, anti-Muslim, anti-Buddhist, anti-Wiccan, anti-Agnostic or Anti-Atheist. I am not anti-anything except when one’s beliefs are used as an excuse to persecute or otherwise pummel an individual or group. When this is done by an individual it is usually the work of a fanatic in his or her misguided belief that he or she is an agent of god. When it is done by an Institution, it is coldly calculated to hurt. It aims at those areas that are personal and held dear.
It is time for us to act. It is time for us to let the institutional organized religions know that “we are mad as hell, and we are not going to take it anymore.” It is time for us to mount our own campaign that will hit the organizations right where it will hurt. We must hit them in what they value most….. their pocketbook, their bank account.
We live in a time where Organized Religion and individual Churches have over- stepped the area that should separate the business of God from the business of Caesar. We saw it in the last three Presidential elections where the pulpit was used to either tell the congregants who to vote for, or rather who not to vote for because the candidate believed in “a woman’s right to choose, homosexual rights, women’s rights, affirmative action”, or any other thought that was different from the tenets expressed by the particular church or its Ministers. Time and again we have watched as the line that separates Church from State has been blurred and irreparably breached.
Churches are tax-exempt. Religions are tax exempt. The Government, in effect is subsidizing religion by allowing the churches to enjoy this tax-free status. Believe it or not, I don’t have a problem with this…. as long as the Churches uphold their part in the agreement.
Their part is simply to refrain from politicking. Their part is to avoid using the pulpit to denounce a particular candidate because he or she does not agree with a particular church’s teachings. Their part dictates that they not pass out literature within the church that exhorts their members to vote a certain ticket. Their part is to NOT use tax-free money or supplies to subsidize a candidate or promote a viewpoint on a referendum that should be left to the people as an independent force.
People have their own prejudices, many of them fostered by a religion. Those are so ingrained they cannot be left outside the voting booth. I am not criticizing these. If a person enters his vote based on their own inner voice, that vote should not be challenged.
The undue influence of the institutional churches are another matter entirely. When either from the pulpit or on Church property the Minister directs his congregation to vote a certain way on an Initiative or to vote either for or against a candidate, then that Minister is betraying a trust, and negates the right of that Church to maintain itself as a tax-free entity.
We saw the influence of the various institutional churches do the damage in California and the result was the loss of a Right that was earned after centuries of marching through fire. A great part of the money that was used to put aside same-sex marriage came from Utah and the Mormon Church. There were also many churches in California that pressured their membership to vote to end the right of all people to enter into a legal marriage and to reinstate a centuries old prejudice.
Currently, in Maine where same-sex marriage has been legalized by the State Legislature, the Roman Catholic Church is using all of its influence to gather signatures to oppose the recently passed law and put it on the ballot for popular vote. The Church’s right to exert its influence on any referendum or voter petition is patently unethical if done on Church property, or by using church resources and could result in the loss of the tax-free status the Diocese enjoys. If the Church itself is skating close to the illegal and the unethical, what is its value to society?
One must consider not only the preaching and instruction in the churches on matters political, but also its use of resources that were purchased with their tax-free monies, and utilized in the churches political battles.
Any entity that enjoys a tax-free status is bound to refrain from politicking either in favor of or against any candidate or voter initiative. If such politicking occurs, the Internal Revenue Service needs to investigate and the tax-free status of the Church needs to be withdrawn. This should also be the action of State and Municipal Governments as well. I am not advocating that all religious organization be taxed, but I am advocating that those guilty of either breaking or bending the rules by which they have secured their freedom from taxes have their status revoked.
The preachers have a right to their opinion and have the right to vote their conscience. No one could possibly object to that. They cannot promote their view or the view of their church’s hierarchy using Church property or resources that have been purchased with tax-free monies. This includes the gathering of petition signatures and the placing of signs on Church property. It includes the donating of supplies or personnel to print pamphlets and the making of pamphlets and/or fliers available on church property.
Churches need to be put on notice that they cannot continue with their hate-spiels unless they are willing to pay taxes along with the rest of us.
We need to be in touch with our legislators and we need to start a grass-root movement where-in our letters will be numerous enough to put these Legislators on notice to either investigate the churches for politicking, or be faced with losing their seats at the next election. It might be that such a movement would also make the Churches aware that they are in danger of being hit, and hit hard right in the cash supply they hold in such high regard.
If we see any of these breaches happening or any election or initiative being hijacked by any religious entity, it is time to act. If we mount a grass-roots letter writing campaign it could very well put the “fear of their Lord” (so to speak) back into the Church-men and quite possibly lead us to a time when the churches move back to doing their religious work, and back off from those things that are either cultural or belong to Caesar.