Clergy Civil Disobedience on IRS Political Rules

Monday, September 8th, 2008

Groups on the Christian right have long opposed Internal Revenue Service regulations barring pulpit endorsements of political candidates by pastors or overtly partisan activities at their churches.

This week the Alliance Defense Fund called for a day of pastoral civil disobedience on September 28.  And the guessing is it won’t be Barack Obama who gets endorsed from the pulpits.

The idea is to conspicuously violate current IRS rules and force the agency to take action against the churches, setting up a legal test of the rules.

While it’s hardly a secret that some rabbis skirt perilously close to the IRS-established line by making their partisan preferences known to their congregations, no major Jewish group is supporting the move.

Today Nathan Diament, political director for the Orthodox Union, noted in his blog that “while we favor robust engagement in politics by religious leaders, institutions and citizens we think turning pulpits into explicit political soapboxes is dangerous.”

Dangerous or not, the McCain-Palin campaign, working to capitalize on the surge of evangelical support triggered by last week’s vice presidential nomination of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, is expected to pull out all the stops to ensure a huge turnout of religious right voters on November 4.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.