Evangelicals seek OK on pulpit politicking

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State opposes the push to have Congress end the ban on church political support.

By Jeff Brumley

A church-state watchdog group has urged Congress to ignore a proposal from evangelical and other groups seeking an end to the prohibition against politics in the pulpit.

The proposal by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability claims in a report to Republican U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa that churches have a free-speech right to support or oppose candidates for political office.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State sharply disagreed in a statement issued today.

“The law on church electioneering doesn’t need to be changed, it needs to be enforced,” said Barry Lynn, the organization’s executive director. “ECFA’s proposal would reduce America’s houses of worship to mere cogs in political machines.”

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Lynn added that Americans consistently reject pulpit politicking in polls, even though the Internal Revenue Service has been lax in upholding the law.

“There is ample evidence of pastors openly violating the law. It’s time for the IRS to act,” Lynn said in the statement.

The ECFA report was prepared at Grassley’s request by the group’s Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious organizations.