Saturday, February 25, 2017

Just a little something for the day to get us through.  For all those refugees from hate, this is for you and all of us!

Separation of Church and State

Sent: Tue, Feb 7, 2017 12:54 pm
Subject: church politicking bill

Here is another view; my friend in Pennsylvania submitted this to her local newspaper:

There might be an upside to Trumps’s pledge to overturn the Johnson amendment. Lifting the ban on political action in religious institutions could be important for ALL churches, not the just large number of evangelical mega churches who flaunted that ban for years. Massive “dark money” for political parties was funneled through churches to fund political campaigns. What I would call “see the light” money could support the innumerable urgent initiatives advocating for a future that protects the planet and supports the rights of all peoples living on it.
My own church is experiencing a surge of persons seeking solace from the devastating and heartless threats to our democracy. The members of religious denominations now organizing vibrant citizen actions in unprecedented numbers could level the playing field by opening up their arms and meeting spaces to all who feel the call to activism for the sake of protecting the sacred liberties we enjoy in America. Perhaps withering congregations would start to flourish with renewed sense of purpose in living up to such urgently-required imperatives that they hold so dear. I would place a bet that other places of worship could be eager to embrace morally-courageous actions with messages of peace and love centered resistance to the tyrannical future we are facing.

Sent: Tuesday, February 7, 2017 1:25 PM
Subject: Re: church politicking bill

It appears to me that the struggle between church and state is not for souls but a dangerous dominionist power competition, disguised and spirituality and religion. Given the dark history of religion it would be a cold day in hell to put my faith in an ideology based on mythology.  That’s not to say that I don’t like it’s adherents, but that I despise the methods used by the church leaders to control their flock  No matter how much they have reformed, the foundation remains rooted in an utterly illogical premise that can only cause conflict by rejecting those who don’t vow to follow their particular beliefs.

With that said, should the wall between church and state fall, which it seems to be, then churches need to pay taxes and be highly accountable for their income and doctrine.  This has been effective in Germany, who’s government controls the churches, resulting in their demise. Take the profit out from under religion and you pretty much end it all.


On 2/23/17 4:53 PM, Kathleen  wrote:
I have been thinking about this for a while, and I have seen some excellent points made about the church/state separation, which is an excellent thing and should remain.  What I have not seen is the dangers the abolition of the Johnson Amendment pose to churches.

For instance, if a church’s doctrine forbids abortion, alcohol, gambling, etc., the minister is certainly within his rights to preach against those things.  But when he starts recommending a certain anti-abortion women’s clinic, opposition to a particular liquor sales or casino bill, he is getting into commercial territory.  That is out of his bailiwick.  Then it gets worse.  Consider that some liquor store owner wants a certain vote on a certain proposition.  He finds out that a church needs a new (and expensive) a/c unit.  He contributes, with no strings, of course.  Won’t the rev. feel a little need to repay the gentleman?  Eventually it will become a lot less subtle, and the next thing he knows, the rev. is hooked.  That money coming in is such a blessing, and the a/c works, the roof is repaired, the sound system is state of the art, and so it goes. He won’t be able to preach his conscience, or even doctrine any more because he’s got to keep the goodies coming in.

Then there’s the congregation problem.  As long as he sticks to church doctrine, his preaching is fine, but what about when he starts preaching on an issue, especially a divisive one?  Not everybody in his parish is going to see things his way.  There will be resistance, even open opposition.  Then people will start leaving taking their tithes and other financial contributions with them.  Then the rev. has a diminished congregation, diminished influence, and not so much interest for a contributor with a cause.  Then where will he be?

Just a thought. 

Sent: Thu, Feb 23, 2017 7:44 pm
Subject: Re: church politicking bill

So far as I know, there exists no legal or regulatory barrier to churches endorsing or opposing any commercial enterprise (so long as they don’t get enough out of it not to qualify as a “nonprofit organization”). Whatever balance they now maintain, the “Johnson Amendment” (I never heard it called that until the current drive to demonize it; previously, everybody just said “the tax code” or “501(c)(3) regulations”) has nothing to do with it.

The closest I’ve heard of to the hypothetical situation described below comes from the early ’30s, when bootleggers (particularly in the midwest) donated to preachers fighting against the repeal of Prohibition. When that failed, and staying “dry” became a state or county option, no doubt booze vendors located on the borders of those states & counties also contributed regularly to keeping them that way.

Churches have taken strong positions on issues all along, and gained or lost some members accordingly. Again, the tax code allows this, and always has: the Republican claim that the IRS stifles political speech has no more truth than any other Republican tenet or False Noise report. Repealing the “Johnson Amendment” would affect only two things: direct endorsement of/opposition to candidates, and use of church re$ource$ in election campaigns (in effect, turning participating churches into money-laundering SuperPACs).

According to an article in the newest Church and State magazine from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, in recent generations if Americans met with disagreement between their political party and their church, they switched parties. Now, it seems, that has reversed – they switch churches. AUSC offers this as a reason for churches to stay out of elections, but I doubt our modern turbochristians will pay any attention.


On 2/24/2017 10:38 AM, Al wrote:
What a great exchange of viewpoints!  I am particularly in agreement with Kathleen’s last sentence.  While I want to see the Johnson Amendment enforced more vigorously than it has been, as a Humanist I take no joy in seeing someone or something damaged or destroyed by its enforcement.
Sent: Fri, Feb 24, 2017 11:28 am
Subject: Re: church politicking bill

Have just finished Susan Jacoby’s latest, Strange Gods:  A Secular History of Conversion.  She points out that Americans increasingly have a proclivity to change religions multiple times and for multiple reasons.  I would imagine that if imams, ministers, rabbis and other religious leaders of churches in the 501 3 c category are allowed, with the demise of the Johnson Amendment,  to specifically advocate for the election of one or more political candidates by name, those folks in the various congregations that don’t wanna be told who or how to vote will up and leave that particular congregation and find another more suited to their particular liking.  This most likely will have the further effects of dividing and sorting us (our American community) to an even greater extent, not a good thing IMO.
From this book comes another interesting idea, though unrelated to current discussion, which is her prediction that, for better or perhaps more likely for worse, the increasingly greater number of “Nones” reported by Pew, who have a limited or no knowledge of various faith traditions, will parent children that will present a fertile field for a new generation of religious converts.  YIKES!
Continuing along the church-state separation path,  an interesting  footnote in her book reports that Maine Representative James G. Blaine introduced in 1875 a constitutional amendment that would have banned taxpayer support for religious instruction nationwide.  That amendment failed to obtain the 2/3 majority in the Senate by just two votes.  Had it passed and been ratified, tax vouchers for religious schools would be unconstitutional and perhaps Betsy DeVos would still be selling only Amway products and not religion in public schools.

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