Churches Don’t Need Help from “Americans United”!
By Donald P. Shoemaker
August 14, 2013
Americans United for Separation of Church and State is at it again—lecturing on church/state affairs from its radical separationist corner.
Seems that the Christian organization Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), is delivering a recommendation to U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) today (August 14). “It says churches and other tax-exempt religious organizations have a free-speech right to endorse or oppose candidates for public office, “ says an AU press release. AU then smears the ECFA, an honorable organization, with “guilt by association” by noting some of its affiliates are “right wing” and reach all the way to Jerry Falwell (horrors!).
The press release continues:
“The law on church electioneering doesn’t need to be changed, it needs to be enforced,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “ECFA’s proposal would reduce America’s houses of worship to mere cogs in political machines.”
Mr. Lynn, thank you, but Evangelical churches do not need the help of AU in order to be the churches we believe God calls us to be. We realize that politicking deflects us from our message. We know that partisanship in our churches will drive many Christians and non-Christians away. We have the teachings of Jesus to let us know that God’s realm and Caesar’s realm need to be distinguished.
We don’t need government and its laws to help us be the church either! Besides, “the law on church electioneering” that AU wants enforced is a nefarious law passed with little thinking by Congress in 1954 to help Lyndon Johnson deal with some pesky opponents in his re-election bid. It’s doubtful that even LBJ intended it to be as limiting on church speech as it has become.
Remember this, for this is key: limitations on politicking by tax-exempt religious groups is therefore recent in American history. The limit is from statutory law, not a principle of the Constitution.
My opinions are: churches should have the “free speech” right to engage in partisan politics but would be very unwise to do so, in all but the rarest of cases. Churches also have the recognized right to influence legislation and take stands on issues, but even these should be carefully connected to a church’s mission and message.
Lynn, a liberal minister and attorney, adds, “Americans reject pulpit politicking. They attend houses of worship for spiritual solace, not partisan preaching.”
He’s right if this is a generalization. He should therefore complain a lot more about the leftist partisanship in liberal churches, which far exceeds its counterpart in conservative, Evangelical churches.
[AU’s release can be read from a main-page link at: www.au.org]
Donald P. Shoemaker
Pastor Emeritus, Grace Community Church of Seal Beach
Chair, Social Concerns Committee, Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches