Press Releases

Senate Bill Turns Houses of Worship into Political Convention Halls

(Washington, D.C.) Today Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), in an election-year appeal to the Religious Right, introduced a bill that would compromise the sanctity of religion.  The bill, S. 3957, would amend the IRS Code to allow houses of worship to endorse candidates from the pulpit and engage in partisan political activity without harming their tax-exempt status. 

“Senator Inhofe wants to turn houses of worship into political convention halls,” said Interfaith Alliance President, the Reverend Welton Gaddy.  “This bill would allow politicians to exploit the moral authority of the pulpit to advance a partisan agenda.  When religious leaders endorse candidates for office, they compromise their prophetic voice.  The very sanctity of religion is at stake in this debate,” he said.

Inhofe’s bill is similar a H.R. 235, introduced in the House by Representative Walter Jones (R-NC).  At last weekend's Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit in Washington, Senator Inhofe spoke in favor of the Jones bill and promised action on the Senate floor before Congress adjourned to home for the November elections.  The Interfaith Alliance has been successful in bottling up the Jones bill through the dedicated grassroots efforts of its 185,000 members.

In addition to endorsements of candidates, Inhofe’s bill would also allow houses of worship to make political contributions to candidates and political parties.

“Congress should not allow money from Sunday’s collection plates to line their campaign coffers on Monday,” said Dr. Gaddy.  “Under this bill, tax-exempt donations intended for the common good – to heal the afflicted and feed the hungry – could be used instead to curry favor with politicians,” he said.

The Role of Religion in the Immigration Debate

(Washington, D.C.) On this Sunday’s “State of Belief,” The Interfaith Alliance Foundation’s show on Air America Radio, the Reverend Welton Gaddy welcomes Pat Buchanan, the outspoken conservative pundit and former presidential candidate, and legal expert John Pomeranz. Dr. Gaddy asks Buchanan about the role of religion in the current debate over immigration reform and Pomeranz warns houses of worship against falling prey to ambitious politicians. 

Buchanan chides religious leaders who favor a more lenient immigration policy based on a reading of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. “It seems to me, in my understanding of Christian doctrine, the first obligation of the father is to defend his family and the home, and protect it against invaders,” said Buchanan.  “And the fact that invaders might be poor does not justify bringing them into the house and claim the rights of the first born.”

Buchanan is also the author of a new book on immigration called State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America.  In it, he argues against viewing the debate on immigration from an economic perspective, saying that too many Americans worship “at the Church of the GDP.” 

Instead, Buchanan argues that the foundation of American values should be based on Christianity.  “The United States of America has an ethno-cultural core.  It was a Western country, a European country, a Christian country.  This is one of the things that held it together,” he said.  

Also, Dr. Gaddy also examines the ongoing controversy over political messages from the pulpit with legal expert John Pomeranz.  In 2004, two-days before the Presidential election, the congregation of All Saints Episcopal Church heard a sermon delivered by George Regas, a former rector at All Saints.  The sermon was called, “If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush,” and included hypothetical questions and answers from Jesus to the two Presidential candidates.  All Saints is currently under investigation by the IRS and is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status.

Pomeranz noted that other houses of worship across the country could face similar problems. “Political campaigns have every incentive into misleading churches and other tax exempt organizations into violating law.  “They're not the ones at risk.  The only danger is to the church, and the political organization gets what it needs from the church and it's the churches that are left to take the consequences.”

New Christian Coalition President on State of Belief This Sunday

(Washington, D.C.) – On this Sunday's "State of Belief," The Interfaith Alliance Foundation's show on Air America Radio, the Reverend Welton Gaddy conducts the first radio interview with the new president of the Christian Coalition, the Reverend Joel Hunter.  The author of Right Wing, Wrong Bird: Why the Tactics of the Religious Right Won't Fly with Most Conservative Christians, Rev. Hunter discusses his vision for a new, more broadly-focused Christian Coalition.  Also, Welton explores the religious blogosphere in a new segment, called Blogs of Belief.

 

Rev. Hunter tells Welton that the Christian Coalition must hold onto the "basic moral stances" in which it has always believed, but it will also expand into what he calls "'compassion issues' -- taking care of God's creation, justice, religious liberty, and helping the marginalized." 

 

Welton asks Rev. Hunter whether evangelicals who want to remain solely focused on outlawing abortion and same-sex marriage will oppose this new mission.  Rev. Hunter admits that the Christian Coalition is "going to take our licks for doing this, but we're going to do it because we think it is right, and we cannot ignore the rest of the gospel.  We're forging some new ground for the evangelical community, and that's not going to go automatically and easily." 

 

Plus, Welton explores what has the attention of the religious blogosphere in a new segment called Blogs of Belief.  The editor of StreetProphets.com, Pastor Dan Schultz, joins Welton to talk about the reaction to the Mark Foley sex scandal.  An offspring of Daily Kos, Street Prophets is an online forum is an online forum that mobilizes progressive people of faith on political and religious issues.

IRS Expert Explains Rules on Electioneering in Houses of Worship

(Washington, D.C.) – On this Sunday’s "State of Belief," The Interfaith Alliance Foundation’s show on Air America Radio, the IRS pays a visit to Reverend Welton Gaddy – no, not for an audit.  A tax expert joins Welton to explain IRS regulations on political activity in houses of worship.  Later in the show, Welton talks to former Congressman, the Reverend Bob Edgar about the moral landscape of America.  And Welton continues to explore the religious blogosphere with Reverend Chuck Currie.

With Election Day right around the corner, political candidates on both sides of the aisle are reaching out to people of faith.  But, as IRS expert Judy Kindell warns, religious leaders must be cautious that they do not cross the line into partisan activity.  “Political candidates are familiar with state or federal election law, but they may not be familiar with IRS tax regulations.  Thus, they may pressure houses of worship to engage in activity that would jeopardize their tax-exempt status,” she said. 

However, Kindell notes the IRS regulation apply to intervention in political campaigns, and not all activity that might be described as political.  Houses of worship are free to conduct voter registration drives and candidate forums, so long as they give equal time to all candidates and do not advocate a partisan agenda. 

Also, former Congressman Bob Edgar discusses his new book, Middle Church: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right.  Rev. Edgar, who is currently general secretary of the National Council of Churches, indicates that not all evangelicals are out of touch with mainstream moral values. "Every time I use the term Religious Right in my book, I use the words 'Far Radical' in front of it,” Edgar said.  “Because we do know there are those who get it on global warming, who get it on poverty, and while they may hold different views from mine on civil marriage and abortion, those are the people I really want to see mass together and reclaim the soul of our nation."

Finally, this Sunday’s State of Belief features the second installment of the new feature, “Blogs of Belief.”  Welton welcomes the Reverend Chuck Currie, who writes at ChuckCurrie.blogs.com.  Rev. Currie’s blog addresses a number of issues that concern people of faith, from Iraq to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.  But Currie is also concerned about churches that go beyond issue-based advocacy.  “I believe churches should not be sinners of partisan political action,” he said.