Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Religion And Politics

The LDS Church has always claimed political neutrality. But that doesn't stop ambitious politicians from standing as close as possible to The Church. Hopefully The Church will make some meaningful changes to discourage this practice. That is the only way The Church will survive its members reaching the top of the political game. For example, it's absolutely inappropriate for the President of The Mormon Tabernacle Choir to be on Senator Orrin Hatch's buddy payroll. If The Church is to survive the onslaught of Gov's Romney and Huntsman, they need to shed the small time bullshit games of disrespectful small ponders like Senator Hatch and Kem Gardner and get serious. Because what happened with the Boston Globe is only the tip of the public scrutiny iceberg that will dig through every email, schedule, and phone list available. The Church needs to get smart and push politicians to arms length.

24 Comments:

Anonymous The Spyglass said...

Ethan, are you losing your mind?

"If The Church is to survive the onslaught of Gov's Romney and Huntsman, they need to shed the small time bullshit games of disrespectful small ponders like Senator Hatch and Kem Gardner and get serious."

"If the church is to survive?" Bullshit games? What exactly are you saying here Ethan. Do you honestly think the LDS church might not survive, because of some political crap?

Holly Cow!

The Spyglass

10/31/2006 03:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Lars Larson said...

Mark, I agree. It looks like Ethan is being seduced by the mirage of worldly praise. He hasn't learned yet that the world, and all those pretend admirers, don't really care him.

The only one who really does is the being who is actually in charge of the Church, and who, by the way, does not need suggestions from the peanut gallery. Those of us who are a little older, and who have already been burned by our own mistakes along these lines, know this to be true.

Ethan is a bright and good kid.
Let us hope and pray that he hasn't begun the slow but steady ride out of the church on the hobby horse of sophistry. None of us is really that smart.

What this world needs is more humility and Christian service than "feared" bloggering. Ethan will eventually learn this, but will it be in time to save him?

10/31/2006 07:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Jeremy said...

If the church can be shown to be supporting political candidates they could lose their tax exempt status. While I agree with you that the church isn't in danger of having its survival threatened Ethan is right that this could be a real problem.

Orrin Hatch, Mike Leavitt, Mitt Romney and other Republicans have struggled to associate their politics with my church and in doing so they have not only threatened financial harm to the organization they have made government in my state less ethical and more beholden special interests. We now live in a one party state where those governing don’t suffer politically when they do wrong thanks to the success Republicans have had in convincing Utahns that the church is on their side.

Like Ethan I think the church should continue to make every effort possible to distance itself from any political candidate or party.

10/31/2006 08:09:00 AM  
Blogger That One Guy said...

Ethan, Jeremy,

Sing it, Sistas!!

While the synatx may not be right on, the thought certainly hones in on the issue. It is that The Church often finds itself lobbying or even playing a more major role in political activities on five days a week, but that it decries those same positions on Sundays (figuratively speaking, of course).

I doubt many people can state with conviction that the church holds itself to be TRULY politically neutral, and still have a straight face. If YOU can, you're not paying attention.

10/31/2006 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger pramahaphil said...

If your going to make these tired arguments, Ethan, than you had better include Democrat Steve Olsen as one the malfactors on your list. Every article, blog post, and news story I have read or heard about him has included his church calling.

These accusations about LDS Church "non"neutrality in Utah and the Republican party has been a whipping post for Utah Democrats for decades, but those same Democrats seem loathe to recognize when one of their candidates use the same tactics. Just a point to think on.

Having said all that I agree that the LDS Church needs to steer clear of any official connection to campaigns or candidates (as it appears the church is making every effort to avoid the appearance of evil again.)

However, I'm not sure that I agree that someone like the President of The Mormon Tabernacle Choir (forgive me I'm not sure I know exactly what you are refering to Ethan) cannot on his freetime work for a politcal campaign that he or she may support, aren't LDS Church members still U.S. citizens with rights to partcipate the political process as long as they aren't using their church as a campaign tool?

This is serious issue, one that could effect the LDS Church's ability to operate as a charity as Jeremy noted. Allegations on non-neutrality are taken seriously by the church, even if the issue may not be taken seriously by some candidates.

10/31/2006 09:16:00 AM  
Anonymous The Spyglass said...

Tax exempt?

NAACP
Jerry Fallwell
Pat Robertson
Southern Baptists
AOG
Most Black Churches

I find it interesting that many of these exempt agencies and churches have raffles’, bingo, daycare, and preach from the pulpit on who you should for. I don't think the LDS church has anything to worry about. If the LDS church were to lose its exempt status over something as trivial as this, there would not be a remaining tax exempt church left standing. Every active LDS attorney would be filing suit in every community in America.

The Spyglass

10/31/2006 09:25:00 AM  
Blogger pramahaphil said...

Just a note on "That One Guys" comment:

"It is that The Church often finds itself lobbying or even playing a more major role in political activities"

I'm guessing you are refering to the Church's support of the recent Marriage amendment. Contrary to popular opinion in the blogosphere this type of lobbying is allowable under IRC Section 501(c)(3) (the tax exempt organization rule book)A charity can lobby on politcal legislation that it deems critical to the organization's mission and purpose.

If you remember in the 90's near the time that the Marriage Protection Act was introduced, the church announced its Proclamation on the Family (marriage is ordained of God)That document not only served as apronouncement of doctrine, but also served as a stated purpose that allowed the church to lobby on that issue without violating the rules in 501(c)(3). The church used that loophole again in regards to the Marriage Amendment.

Just a note I thought might be useful to this discussion.

10/31/2006 09:39:00 AM  
Blogger pramahaphil said...

I agree that the Church probably doesn't have anything to worry about, Spyglass. However, I think that Church leadership and most LDS Church members and candidates would avoid the cynicism you expressed.

If you can't tell tax season is over and I have free time.

10/31/2006 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger brett said...

First of all, I agree with Ethan's premise that the Church needs to push harder for neutrality. As an LDS Democrat, I secretly yearn for the vindication of President Hinckley saying in Conference that it's ok to vote Democrat, but I would feel better if he said that the Church is not political. I think that Steve Olsen has straddled that line well, in that I have never heard him say something like "I was giving the announcements in Sacrament meeting" or "I was giving a temple recommend interview" or anything where he wears his calling on his sleeve. He admits when asked if he is a bishop, but I dare you to find that on his website (outside of referring to his opponent's name).
As to the NAACP, Mark, you are completely wrong. They do not tell anyone who to vote for. They do not endorse candidates or parties. The NAACP endorses issues, not candidates; they obey the law. I also find your statement that "most black churches" offensive and bordering on racism. Would you please provide evidence of one "black church" that has told its members who to vote for? Have you ever been to a "black church"? I know everyone has seen candidates speaking to churches, but do you then assume that just because their preacher is black, they must endorse that candidate? Do you also assume they have the same tax status as the LDS Church? I doubt it. Beyond that, you won't find me supporting the other ones you note because they frequently cross the line and deserve to lose their 501c3 status.
As to pramaphil's statement, I believe the LDS Church is within their rights to support the attempt to amend the US Constitution to limit marriage, since they can advocate on many issues, though I may disagree with their statement. However, I found it offensive when Hatch, Bishop, Matheson, and Cannon all used that to trumpet how they were listening to Utahns to vote for it. That makes people cynical.

10/31/2006 10:51:00 AM  
Anonymous The Spyglass said...

brett said,
"As to the NAACP, Mark, you are completely wrong."

Tell me how I'm wrong.

"They do not tell anyone who to vote for."

OH please!

"They do not endorse candidates or parties."

They don't have too, they are just an extension of the Democratic Party.

"The NAACP endorses issues, not candidates; they obey the law."

True, True their issues. I wonder how much sympathy the LDS church gets when it's founding principles are attacked, how about NONE!

"I also find your statement that "most black churches" offensive and bordering on racism."

Why am I not suprised Brett.

"Would you please provide evidence of one "black church" that has told its members who to vote for?"

Every Black Church that invites the Rev. Jessie Jackson to speak, oh please.

"Have you ever been to a "black church"?"

Yes frequently, I attended a High School in Seattle that was a forced integrated school 1971-1974. I made many black friends, and 30 years later I can factually say I'm color blind, how about you sparky?

"I know everyone has seen candidates speaking to churches, but do you then assume that just because their preacher is black, they must endorse that candidate?"

You must have grown up in Utah!

"Do you also assume they have the same tax status as the LDS Church?"

Yes!

"I doubt it. Beyond that, you won't find me supporting the other ones you note because they frequently cross the line and deserve to lose their 501c3 status."

I think they all cross the line including the LDS church.

Brett,

How very PC of you. I stand by my post.

10/31/2006 11:43:00 PM  
Anonymous The Spyglass said...

IndyStar.com
October 30, 2006
Meeting of national black leaders begins
By Robert King

"Black churches and their leaders need to revive social activism and "raise hell" if necessary to get today's problems addressed, one minister said today.

That was the opening note of a two-day conference of national black leaders that began this morning at Indianapolis' Eastern Star Church."

I rest my case, click here http://politicalspyglass.blogspot.com/2006/10/re-sharpton-faults-christian-right.html

11/01/2006 12:02:00 AM  
Anonymous The Spyglass said...

Weekly Radio Commentary
Listen to Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson's Commentary broadcast weekly on Radio America. "Why Are Liberals Allowed to Mix Church and State, While Conservatives Are Crucified for It?".

11/01/2006 12:10:00 AM  
Blogger brett said...

Mark, once again, you fail to state where the NAACP has endorsed a candidate. Give me 1 candidate they have endorsed! Let me just state that I find it absolutely wrong when any 501c3 organization, of any stripe, endorses a candidate. You never stated where one church actually endorsed a candidate, you just peddled your own assumptions. I don't have a problem with any Church or 501c3 "raising hell" on an issue, as long as they don't endorse a candidate. Some churches (Mark's "black" ones, several in the evangelical movement) allow candidates to speak in their meetings in an overtly political manner. I am glad that at least the LDS Church has the standards that they don't allow that to happen.

11/01/2006 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger pramahaphil said...

Just a partial rebuttal on the spyglass' fresh comments. While I agree that there are likely quite a few 501(c)(3) organizations might be stretching the boundaries of the law (and some may be snapping it in half)I take issue that nothing is being done about it.

I have included a link to an NPR story about a So Cal Church that was investigated on this issue for taking unsavory politcal actions before the '04 Presidential elections. If allegations of illegal political activities are reported, these allegations are investgated. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6100888

PS. In regards to the NAACP it is not a 501(c)(3)organization like the LDS Church. It is a 501(c)(4)organization (same distinction as an union of employees)contributions aren't deductible as a charity, and therefore it isn't limited from political participation.

11/01/2006 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger brett said...

Thank you for the clarification on the NAACP's status, prampahil. However, I am sure you will concur that while c4s can participate in politics, they cannot endorse candidates for office. They have not (since gaining their tax status) endorsed candidates. If they did, they broke the law and should be punished (and probably were).

11/01/2006 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger pramahaphil said...

Last post and I will stop monopolizing the issue. www.guidestar.org is a good resource to find out about different nonprofit organizations.

11/01/2006 03:26:00 PM  
Blogger pramahaphil said...

I disagree Brett,501(c)(4)'s can endorse (or campaign against) candidates "for public office provided that such intervention does not constitute the organization's primary activity".

http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/eotopicl03.pdf

Another 501(c)(4) is the NRA, and they definitely endorse candidates, even at times to the point of nearly violating the "provided that such intervention does not constitute the organization's primary activity."

11/01/2006 03:34:00 PM  
Blogger brett said...

Sorry to keep dragging this on, but I believe the difference between the NAACP and the NRA is that the NRA has a PAC, registered with the FEC and as a 527 with the IRS, in addition to their c4. I believe they also have a c7, but I am not sure. That is how they endorse candidates. The NAACP does not have a PAC, and I stand by my statement that they do not, as a policy, if not proscribed by law, endorse candidates. When I went to the NAACP Salt Lake Branch's Meet the Candidate night, they allowed all candidates to speak. SLC Branch President Jeanetta Williams was very clear, the NAACP does not endorse candidates, but they do endorse issues and lobby for issues.

11/02/2006 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger brett said...

Sorry to keep dragging this on, but I believe the difference between the NAACP and the NRA is that the NRA has a PAC, registered with the FEC and as a 527 with the IRS, in addition to their c4. I believe they also have a c7, but I am not sure. That is how they endorse candidates. The NAACP does not have a PAC, and I stand by my statement that they do not, as a policy, if not proscribed by law, endorse candidates. When I went to the NAACP Salt Lake Branch's Meet the Candidate night, they allowed all candidates to speak. SLC Branch President Jeanetta Williams was very clear, the NAACP does not endorse candidates, but they do endorse issues and lobby for issues.

11/02/2006 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger pramahaphil said...

As far as I understand it, 501(c)(4)'s can endorse candidates as much as they want or deem necessary in the interest of its organizational purpose, but if there political participation goes too far they may fall into 527 rules. (subjective as can be I know)

It could be that the NAACP uses PAC's in order to head up their political activity -- Doing so would be cleaner but I don't know. However, 501(c)(4)'s have the power to endorse (or campaign against) candidates, whether they do so is a mute point.

Quick and dirty guideline, if a nonprofit qualifies to receive deductible charitible contributions they are restricted from political participation. The NAACP, and the NRA can't receive deductible contributions, the Mormons can.

11/02/2006 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger brett said...

Again, the NAACP does not have a PAC. Check the FEC (www.fec.gov) or the IRS 527 database(http://www.irs.gov/charities/political/article/0,,id=109644,00.html). Second, the NRA "Political Victory Fund" and 501c4 are separately funded organizations, and cannot legally be connected. The NRA's PVF and NRA's c4 collect separate contributions. The c4's activities are restricted to mainly legislative activities. The PAC's $ is separately raised and spent through the PAC is not tax deductible. The 527 of the NRA can have no financial connection to the 501c4 of the NRA and they cannot share funds.
To summarize, there is a huge difference between the advocacy activities of the LDS Church, the intensive lobbying of the NAACP, and the active participation in electoral politics by the NRA's Political Victory Fund.

11/03/2006 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger pramahaphil said...

Brett -- I'm not sure about the NAACP now. The source that showed it as a c4 showed that contributions are nondeductible, however the NAACP website called themselves a c3 and claimed that contributions are deductible, so I'm guessing the NAACP website is more accurate.

Sorry about the drawn out issue, I think I was wrong.

11/04/2006 09:37:00 PM  
Blogger pramahaphil said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11/04/2006 09:37:00 PM  
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