Politics from the Pulpit?

This morning I received a letter from a church that I once attended and still feel warmly towards. I grew up there and learned kindness and love in the best way—by seeing it in practice. Even though I no longer follow the teachings, members consistently reach out to me, letting me know that they are there to help spiritually as well as physically if I need them.

At least once a month, I receive a small handwritten note or at least a typed form letter that usually includes some gentle reminder about the Church’s teachings and, of course, what hours services are held. But this morning’s letter carried propaganda on why I should vote for Proposition 8–“Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

Angrily, I crumpled the pages and tossed them into the wastebasket. I wanted to tell the people who sent it to me how closed minded they were. I wanted to remind them that many of the same arguments they were using against gay marriage were used not so long ago against interracial marriage. Most of all I wanted to tell them how betrayed I felt that they used our spiritual relationship to foist their views on me. But….

In spite of my anger, I don’t want anyone to tell them it is illegal to have or to promote political views. Greg and Carol’s blog relates how several conservative pastors are planning on fighting the current restrictions on political speech from the pulpit.

I hate their politics


I don’t want any church, with me or against me politically, to have their speech restricted.  I may think it impolite or unwise to speak out the way some churches or their pastors do but they have the right to do so.  In 2004, a Reverend Regas preached a sermon against the war in Iraq, subsequently his church became subject to a protracted IRS investigation.  In the same year, another non-profit (this time secular), the NAACP  found itself facing an investigation because its chairman spoke out and “condemned the administration policies of George W. Bush on education, the economy, and the war in Iraq.”

Intrinsic to the mission of many churches is promoting peace and condeming war; thus failure to speak out would have been failure to follow their mission. In addition, intrinsic to the NAACP is promoting the welfare of black people.  Wouldn’t the leaders of the organization be remiss if they didn’t speak out about policies they feared harmful to their members?

Churches(like other non-profits) have agendas that can best be met in the political arena. Just as Trees Foundation, NAACP, and the NRA all need to issue political statements in order to spread their beliefs so to do Churches. Like other non-profits, let them freely express their views without fearing losing their tax exempt status.

Thus, may the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have tax exempt status along with California Episcopal Bishops against Prop. 8 and, even Conservative Christians for Pickling Marriage in Outdated Modalities and Ignoring Rights and Realities of Anyone besides Us deserve to have the same tax exempt status as other non-profits.

Let Freedom ring… from the pulpit as well as the political podium.



  • I disagree, Kym.

    Non-profits have a contract with the American people. The terms of the contract are simple. They don’t get to make a profit, and they don’t get to step into the political arena. As long as they do those two simple little things, they don’t have to pay taxes. The moment they do either, they can and should be treated like any other money-making corporation. It’s not the government that’s breaching the contract here, it’s the church. And as a group, they’ve been acting in bad faith for a very long time.

    Personally, I’m for revoking their tax-exempt status anyway. I see no reason whatever that this type of corporation is in any way special, other than the obscene amounts of money it jams in its pockets for doing absolutely nothing productive.

  • My wife is also a tentative member of that same church, and we suffer the endless letters. I thought that they think that the man is the head of the household. But, I found that if the man is not a member of their religion he doesn’t count.

    I too have many great friends who are members of that church, and I am also reluctant to criticize them. I guess I’ll have to say “I hate the non-sins, but forgive the non-sinner”.

    I once had a very wise man tell me once that: “You can tell a worthwhile organization. They are the ones that do good in the community without asking you to fund it”.

  • Lou, I actually agree that there may be a problem with non-profits period not paying taxes. But, if NAACP (or other Non-profits) doesn’t have to pay taxes, though, I think the same rule should apply to a church.

    Ernie, I actually am constantly amazed by the quiet good works done by the local church members. Everything from helping ill people clean house, to doing laundry for new mothers, to teaching people how to budget, to pouring sidewalks for the elderly…If you ask, the letters will stop but I find them evidence of kindness and caring. It is comforting to know that in the world of goodhearted people, differences of opinion don’t end relationships.

  • There are good churches and bad churches, just as there are good people and bad people. And there are some folks who are hiding behind the name “church” who have no right to it (Scientology, I’m looking at you.) And many people are helped by churches. When I was homeless, I stayed in a shelter run by the Archdiocese of Seattle. But they followed the rules since they got Federal money. We were preached to or proselyitized, but free to form our own Bible studies or other religious things.
    Paying taxes would cut into some of that work. However perhaps there could be a way to do politics from the pulpit. I don’t want them embroiled with the IRS for preaching peace. For preaching Armageddon so they can get raptured? No. But how do you stop one without stopping the other?
    Jesus was probably the least political man out there. The most political thing he said was, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars.” Politics belong to Caesar, so they should keep out of it.

  • We were preached to or proselyitized,

    That should be we were NOT preached to or proselytized.

  • It’s amazing that people who do good works and care for others and be such bigots.

  • I may be wrong but it seems to me that societal confusion lies not in that good people do things we think are wrong but in the fact that most people we feel are bad are still good people in many ways.

    When a murderer turns up, people often discount anything good the person ever did as a coverup but I wonder if we all aren’t a thicker mixture of good and bad then we would like to admit.

  • Kim, what you say here, resonates deeply in me. We are all, “a thicker mixture of good and bad,” and realizing that helps us to love and forgive. Also, freedom of speech must remain for everyone. So often, we want to be free to state our own ‘right’ point of view, but then want to disallow if for a view we deem as wrong. I always think of the sermon I once heard where it is said that when we point a finger at others in condemnation, 3 fingers are pointing back at ourselves. Great post.

  • Kym, the church members may indeed do “quiet good works,” but I can tell you personally that letters like the one you received hurt. You’d think that after never having equal rights, I’d be used to second-class treatment. I’m not. I always feel the pain whenever I’m kicked.

    …….and just think: they can trample on my rights and feelings without even having to pay taxes.

    Thank you for throwing that letter into the trash. That where it belongs, and I appreciate your support.

  • Preachers have the same rights to free speech we all have, but if they are preaching from the pulpit I want my political contributions to be tax-deductible.

  • It should be well noted that JUDAS ISCARIOT tried to use Jesus’ ministry as a platform for political and military uprise.
    He was in extreme error to say the least.

    Jesus rebuked Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane for trying to use force on Jesus’ captors putting to rest any misconceived notions that this was some uprising.

    There are many other examples where Jesus went to great lengths to distance himself and his ministry from being considered political or military.
    I am sickened by many things in the pulpit and find this “vain revolution for political freedom of speech” particularly irreprehensible and contrary to the teachings and overall impetus of Jesus’ ministry.

    As a sideline note I would also like to point out that none of the candidates are running for office of priest or pastor.
    To criticize one politician for being “pro choice” or in favor of stem cell research while giving full support to a candidate who advocates fully the use of war, torture, and nuclear armament not only for defense but also as a ” first strike” option, is garbage and contradicts all that Jesus came to establish as his message and legacy.

    I would like to add another thought that sacrificing a church’s tax exempt status is extremely irresponsible when considering that the minister is being entrusted with money that did not come from him nor belongs to him.
    (see all the biblical listings for stewardship).

    I would like to charge and challenge all elders and/ or board members to challenge and rebuke your pastor if you feel he is abusing his post of shepherd for the sake of spewing politically in a place that should bring respite from all of this rather than becoming a platform for it.

  • I think you have some valid points but, I’m curious how do you feel about a priest speaking out against the war?

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