A story in today's Washington Post reports how the Religious Right is challenging the ban on churches from endorsing politicians.
Declaring that clergy have a constitutional right to endorse political candidates from their pulpits, the socially conservative Alliance Defense Fund is recruiting several dozen pastors to do just that on Sept. 28, in defiance of Internal Revenue Service rules.
The effort by the Arizona-based legal consortium is designed to trigger an IRS investigation that ADF lawyers would then challenge in federal court. The ultimate goal is to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out a 54-year-old ban on political endorsements by tax-exempt houses of worship.
I think that they've been abusing the rights they have.
There are two different kinds of morality: ethical and dogmatic. Ethics have a philosophical underpinning and they can be debated. Dogma can only be accepted on faith or ultimately rejected as blasphemy.
Imagine that the IRS rules stated that churches and similar tax-exempts were forbidden to advocate imposing any dogma on nonbelievers, or lying to get people to think a dogma being advocated is ethical. That means that the Catholic Church would be allowed to say that you can't get an abortion and be a good Catholic; but they'd lose their tax exemption if they said that you can't be a good Catholic and allow Protestants and Jews to get abortions.
Apart from the problem of getting THAT through Congress, there are two problems: drawing the line is not as easy as I made it sound; and it would require not only that the issue being addressed be ethical (or nonpolitical), it would require that every advocate for the stance must make the disticntion clear, which would call for more erudition than many clerics have.
The church has long had an expertise on ethics. I would not condemn them for their efforts against slavery or eugenics. However, they do have a place of trust that many parishioners don't question even when they doubt the pastor's right. We've seen people like Cardinal Maeda of Detroit saying that marriage has been one man and one woman for 3000 years--as though polygamy has never had official sanction. Repealing the ban on endorsements from the pulpit would bring back the corruption and hypocrisy that made the Founding Fathers oppose the establishment of religion.