33 Pastors across 22 American states are putting their toes into constitutional hot water by endorsing Senator McCain’s presidential campaign from the pulpit.  Their actions are a deliberate challenge to tax laws prohibiting pulpit-politicking.

 

Rev. Broden said in the Dallas Morning News: ‘”What I did (on Sunday) is consistent with the freedoms that are guaranteed me under the Constitution.  Second, I’m being consistent with my call as a minister and a prophetic voice in the culture.”

 

Broden considered the church’s and the candidates’ positions on abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and same-sex marriage.

 

“The Democratic candidate did not fit our view,” he said. “The Republican did.”’

 

The “establishment clause” in the 1st Amendment prohibits government from showing preference to a particular religion or interfering in that religion, and vice-versa.  Thomas Jefferson said this was intended to erect a “wall of separation between church and state”.

 

Why is this wall important?  For the same reason that an employer should be prohibited from influencing the votes of their employees.  Institutions have power over people, and that power can be used to pervert the natural course of democracy.  These churches seek to influence the way their congregations vote, which of course some already do through more covert mechanisms.

 

Churches exert considerable social pressure on their members to conform to and internalise moral principles.  When a pastors tells their congregation that one political candidate shares their common moral principals they are endorsing one and condeming the other. 

 

 

Politicising religion is an obvious danger to individual freedom, to the freedom of government from powerful and unelected religious influence, and what’s more, to the freedom of religion from government influence. 

 

If Jefferson’s wall does come down, church and state may intertwine in complicated and unexpected ways.

 

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State reported six churches to the IRS for violating federal tax laws by endorsing candidates from the pulpit. 

 

And here’s one take on the original story from the Dallas Morning News:  

 

 

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