Taking a Break from Wall Street

The earthquake that is shaking Wall Street has preempted news in the world of religion, some pretty interesting stuff, for sure, including one amazing, and perhaps troubling, video.

First, the Episcopal Church in America removed the Bishop of Pittsburgh, Robert Duncan. Rev. Duncan has been an outspoken opponent of trends in the Anglican Communion, such as the ordination of women and homosexuals. His defrocking will accelerate the movement in the United States toward two Anglican networks, one more liberal and the other more conservative.

Historic Anglican policy allows for only one Episcopal bishop or diocese in a given region; so, as conservative Episcopal congregations in the United States pulled out of the national organization, they affiliated with another national organization, often in Africa where the churches and their bishops are much more conservative.

Second, conservative preachers across the country—some 36 ministers in 20 states—have formed a pact to use their church pulpits this weekend—September 26-27, 2008—to endorse a candidate for political office. According to the news reports, all are planning to declare for John McCain. We have a constitutional right, they claim, to speak their minds without restrictions. The restrictions they speak of are those of the Internal Revenue Service which does not permit non-profit and tax-exempt organizations to endorse candidates for public office.

The effort is being organized and promoted by the Alliance Defense fund. They have declared the event as Pulpit Freedom Sunday. “We’re not encouraging any congregation to violate the law,” a representative said. “What we’re encouraging them to do is exercise their constitutional right in the face of an unconstitutional law.”

Third, and more to the point of living, this Saturday is Angel Food day at our Church, Rosemont Baptist. Volunteers will gather before 7am to unload a large truck of food. About 10am the first of six hundred local families will come to pick up the food they have ordered. The purchase price is about a third of what they would pay in the grocery store.

Angel Food Ministries is the brainchild and passion of a ministerial couple in Georgia, Revs Joe and Linda Wingo. The program now feeds 575,000 people in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Rosemont is the epicenter of this ministry in central Kentucky and more information is available on our web site: www.rosemontbc.net.

And last, but it should have been first, this video: the most amazing episode of preaching that I have ever witnessed, and I wager you will say the same.


2 comments so far

  1. Pastor M on

    Young Kanon certainly had freedom near that pulpit. I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

  2. John Mitchell on

    Of course, every preacher enjoys a First Amendment right to endorse any political candidate from the pulpit! It is silly — and dishonest — for a bunch of preachers to claim otherwise. They are not standing up for First Amendment rights at all, and I suspect that they know it. What they really want to do is get me to pay for their endorsements.

    Most churches enjoy two special tax benefits. One, under Section 501(c)(3), means they do not have to pay taxes on their income, so long as their purpose is charitable or religious, and they don’t get into politics. The other, Section 170, means people contributing to such organizations get to claim a deduction on their income taxes.

    Churches could organize under some other section of the tax code that keeps them exempt from taxes even if they do endorse candidates, but those sections don’t allow contributors to make tax deductions. What these unethical pastors are trying to pull off is to get me — an Obama supporter — to subsidize their efforts to push McCain.

    Let’s take an example. Let’s assume that Joe, Anika, Ahmed and Sonia have the same tax bill in the same income bracket — they each would pay $12,000 in taxes before deductions, and would get to deduct 1/3 of their charitable deductions.
    Joe is a big McCain supporter, and gives $1,500 to his church, where his pastor uses the pulpit to help persuade other church memebrs to support McCain.
    Anika is a big McCain supporter, who contributes $1,500 to the Republican National Committee, where they buy ads to do the same thing.
    Ahmed is a big McCain supporter, who gives $1,500 to his church, where his pastor urges all members to become involved in politics but refuses to endorse anyone, saying each should prayerfully make their own decision.
    Sally is a big Obama supporter, and she gives $1,500 to the local charity for orphaned children.

    Under this scenario, none of the organizations they contribute to pay taxes. But what about deductability fo contributions? Anika does not get to deduct $500 because she is giving to a political organization. Ahmed deducts $500 because his church is a 501(c)(3) organization. Sally, too, deducts $500 because the orphan’s charity is a 501(c)(3) organization. But Joe? He wants to have his cake and eat it too — as does his pastor. He wants to act like Anika and use his money to help fund an organization that is supporting his canditate, but wants to get the tax benefit of Ahmed and Sally.

    Me? I’m one of millions of taxpayers who have to take up the slack whenever someone pays $500 less on their taxes. It’s one thing to figure I’ll pay more when someone contributes to a charitable or religious organization that is not endorsing political candidates. It’s quite another for me to have to pick up the slack for Joe’s contribution to help support his pastor’s efforts to get a guy elected that I think is completely contrary to my political and religious beliefs.

    Bottom line? These rogue pastors are not standing up for their First Amendment rights at all. They are trampling mine, by trying to force me to financially support their political cause. Let them make their own campaign contributions, if they wish. And let them go out and canvass and make phone calls on their own time in support of any candidate they want. But to have them make endorsements from the pulpit and stick me with part of the bill for their salaries, the church’s mortgage and the church’s utility bill is downright sinful.

    Me? I’m contributing to the Obama campaign out of my own money, and not trying to leverage my contribution by funneling it thought a 501(c)(3) organization. I’m paying the full $1,500, not paying only $1,000 and gaving taxpayers oposed to Obama pick up the tab for the rest.

    The churches that engage in this conduct can still be churches, can still speak out as they please, and can still fit some 501(c) category other than 501(c)(3) — that is, they can still avoid paying taxes on their income. They just can’t get me to subsidize their political activities.

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