Right-Wing Christian Power Grab
by Chris Bowers, Tue Feb 08, 2005 at 06:40:57 AM EST
On Jan. 4, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) introduced H.R. 235, the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act of 2005. The bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow religious congregations to support or oppose candidates for public office and conduct partisan campaign activities without losing their tax-exempt status, as long as the activity takes place in the context of a religious service or gathering. While narrower than previous proposals, the bill still unfairly favors religious organizations over other nonprofits and allows tax-deductible contributions to support partisan activities.
The bill is the latest in a series of attempts by Jones, who introduced the first version of the bill in June 2001 (The Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act or HOWPSPA). Congress has consistently rejected the proposal, which has been opposed by nonprofits, clergy and campaign finance reformers. Currently, tax law prohibits all religious, educational, charitable and other organizations exempt under section 501(C)(3) of the tax code from opposing or supporting candidates for office. H.R. 235 would change that for religious organizations.
H.R. 235 is narrower than earlier versions of the bill in that it limits the type of activities permitted, but it is more expansive in that there is no ceiling on the number of activities that could be permitted. Under H.R. 235, the permitted campaign-related activities would have to occur in the "content, preparation, or presentation of any homily, sermon, teaching, dialectic, or other presentation made during religious service or gatherings," but any amount of these activities could be conducted provided they were part of the presentation at a religious gathering. However, religious organizations would be precluded from making campaign contributions or paying for advertisements in newspapers.
Since this language would permit any activity that could be deemed part of a sermon or other presentation during a religious service, it allows for the express endorsement or opposition to a candidate for public office during a sermon. Religious leaders could request that contributions be made directly to the candidate's committee or other political organizations or even individual contributions of services to political campaigns. They could appeal to their congregations to vote for particular candidates.This is not just a power grab by the right-wing over the left wing nationally, but it is also an attempt by the Christian right to consolidate power over the Republican Party and to force large donors to funnel their political donations through religious organizations. While right wing bloggers like Instapundit hold up strawmen as the face of the left, they seem gleefully oblivious to the rising domination of their own party (oh, that's right, Reynolds is an independent / libertarian, not a Republican) by the Christian right. He can blog about how opposing the war means you are a traitor all he wants, but even among his own peeps he is becoming an increasingly irrelevant liberal elitist.