Thursday, June 03, 2004

God loves Dubya, I guess

Most of you have probably already seen this article on other blogs or in various newspapers:
President Bush's re-election campaign is trying to recruit supporters from 1,600 religious congregations in Pennsylvania -- a political push that critics said Wednesday could cost churches their tax breaks.

An e-mail from the campaign's Pennsylvania office, obtained by The Associated Press, urges churchgoers to help organize "Friendly Congregations" where supporters can meet regularly to sign up voters and spread the Bush word.

"I'd like to ask if you would like to serve as a coordinator in your place of worship [emphasis mine - TP]," says the e-mail, adorned with the Bush-Cheney logo, from Luke Bernstein, who runs the state campaign's coalitions operation and is a former staffer to Sen. Rick Santorum, the president's Pennsylvania chairman.
The final grafs:
The director of a nonpartisan watchdog group called the campaign's church appeal "a breathtakingly sad example of mixing religion and politics."

"I have never in my life seen such a direct campaign to politicize American churches -- from any political party or from any candidate for public office," said Rev. Barry W. Lynn of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "By enrolling churches in an election scheme like this, I think the Bush-Cheney campaign is actually endangering those churches' tax exemptions without even the courtesy of telling them that they run a risk."
Kevin Madden, a Bush-Cheney spokesman at campaign's headquarters, said the campaign did not mean to imply that religious supporters should actually congregate for the president at their places of worship.
As Anthony at slapnose says: "Oh I see. They didn't mean to imply it, they meant to just come right out and say it"

Certainly using churches to further political campaigns or agendas are nothing new - African-American churches have certainly been hotbeds of political action since the 50's and 60's and the conservative movement politicized many Protestant congregations starting at least in the late 70's (at least that I was aware of - may have started before). But this appears at least to be much more overt and much more likely to cause problems with tax-exempt status except... who's going to prosecute them? This adminstration has gone so much further than any previous to politicize normally (and legally) apolitical departments (down to publishing Bush campaign talking points on every Treasury Department document) that I can't imagine there being any steps taken against any congregation unless this administration is dumped.


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