Join 3,494 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Illegal or not?
July 1, 2004 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Churchgoers get direction from Bush Campaign: The instruction sheet circulated by the Bush-Cheney campaign to religious volunteers lists 22 "duties" to be performed by specific dates. By July 31, for example, volunteers are to "send your Church Directory to your State Bush-Cheney '04 Headquarters or give [it] to a BC04 Field Rep" and "Talk to your Pastor about holding a Citizenship Sunday and Voter Registration Drive." Isn't this blatantly illegal?
posted by widdershins (43 comments total)

 
From the same article:

... the IRS on June 10 sent a strongly worded letter to both the Republican and Democratic national committees, reminding them that tax-exempt charitable groups "are prohibited from directly or indirectly participating or intervening in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office."
posted by widdershins at 1:20 PM on July 1, 2004


I think it's the churches that are breaking the law here, not the RNC. I mean, I don't know if there is such a crime as "aiding and abetting violation of 501c3 status".

Which I guess is what some of the quotes in the article are about ( "I think it is sinful of them to encourage pastors and churches to engage in partisan political activity and run the risk of losing their tax-exempt status" ).
posted by malphigian at 1:27 PM on July 1, 2004


...and not a special prosecutor in sight. What the hell is with Democrats, why aren't they storming the Whitehouse with torches and pitchforks? The Republicans would be all over a Democratic candidate if they did something like this.
posted by RylandDotNet at 1:30 PM on July 1, 2004


Church & State
posted by homunculus at 1:37 PM on July 1, 2004


The Democrats don't have to resort to stupid and short sighted tactics like this. Or, more importantly, if your opponent is continuing to make an utter ass of himself then why would you want to draw any attention away from that?
posted by fenriq at 1:37 PM on July 1, 2004


The other reason we don't see Democrats as vocal about this as they could be is that every politician in the country is scared stiff of being painted as anti-church. Bush would love to be able to accuse Kerry of trying to silence the church-going crowd that forms his base. Whether or not this is legal, ethical, or moral, it's only going to be challenged by those with nothing to lose.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 1:41 PM on July 1, 2004


What the hell is with Democrats, why aren't they storming the Whitehouse with torches and pitchforks?

instead, we're calling a massive hootenanny and candlelight vigil. everyone should grab thier favorite crystal and meet up at the free clinic. cardboard pyramids are available.
posted by quonsar at 1:41 PM on July 1, 2004


Churches are stumping openly for Bush, where's the FEC, IRS, campaign law, etc lawsuits. Oh right, those are saved for Fahrenheit 9/11.

The conservative double-standard strikes again.

Are they still playing those medicare informercials?
posted by skallas at 1:42 PM on July 1, 2004


>...and not a special prosecutor in sight.

And how are you supposed to pull off that trick with a GOP majority in Congress?

Also: churchgoers tend to vote GOP anyway.
posted by skallas at 1:44 PM on July 1, 2004


Democratic candidates always do the African-American church circuit during election time, usually speaking during the service (or at least that is what how the footage appears to me, maybe someone can clarify). How is this any different?
posted by internal at 1:50 PM on July 1, 2004


Of course, we all know that the African American churches NEVER engage in any political activity on behalf of Democrats....
posted by Durwood at 1:53 PM on July 1, 2004


On preview: what internal said. Philly, Cleveland, Miami, St. Louis, KC -- all critical battlegrounds in this election, all full of African American preachers who are master political operatives. (And more power to them for it, if you ask me -- who better to advocate for their communities?)

And it's not just them -- I'd bet in some of the other swing states, they'll be some decently organized GOTV around predictably liberal white congregations as well (Unitarians, Reform Jews, the more "wet" of the Methodist and Presbyterian congregations, etc.)
posted by MattD at 1:54 PM on July 1, 2004


"wet"?
posted by hackly_fracture at 1:59 PM on July 1, 2004


Also: churchgoers tend to vote GOP anyway.

Which is why the republicans are asking for get-out-the-vote events from churches, obviously enough.
posted by signal at 2:02 PM on July 1, 2004


Democratic candidates always do the African-American church circuit during election time, usually speaking during the service (or at least that is what how the footage appears to me, maybe someone can clarify). How is this any different?


Speaking to a congregation to get their political support is vastly different from asking congregations to stump for you politically. The former is about community and communication well within the non-profit venue of a church. The latter is about free political labor inspired solely by asking for church sanction of a political candidate. I'm sure that others can and will express this more eloquently than I, but the difference seems pretty clear to me. The Dem candidates (in the unsupported challenge case) are about getting support. The RNC letters are about asking others to use an instistution (prohibited from such) to help get support. Is that at all clear?

on preview: Durwood are you rather snottily suggesting that this practice be condoned? I don't remember any letters from the DNC asking for free workers from churches. Perhaps you could elucidate? For the record, it isn't against law or statute for preachers to ask their congregations to believe a particular way. It is against such for a political party to ask first for belief and then for the use of non-taxable resources to stump for them.
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:03 PM on July 1, 2004


I have been in Republican gatherings where the church directory thing is brought up. All that is is a data gathering device; many churchgoing folk are either Republican outright or have much in common with the Republican platform. It's a get-out-the-vote thing, and I am sure Democrats do the same thing-I suppose many historically black churches are more likely to be filled with Democrats, so that is why they reach out to that category. (My church is mixed race but I would characterise it as mostly conservative.)

Now many years ago (Back when hubby and I were actually registered Democrats) the pastor of the church we went to in Florida would contact him and ask him to research which candidates-local and otherwise-most closely fit with what we believed-for example, re abortion. My hubby would do the research, come up with a list, turn it in to the secretary, and lo and behold it was presented as the list of folks our pastor planned on voting on. I doubt that would get by the IRS these days. (If I recall correctly Reagan was in the White House at the time.)

Here in the South, candidates always make the rounds of churches, black, white, and pinto...and most successful Southern politicians at least fake a good relationship with the Almighty.

There's a fine line between a church getting into politics in an illegal way and on the other hand, the people in it exercising their right to political opinions. As I see it the real problem is way too many churchgoers are completely apathetic when it comes to politics. That opinion comes straight from the trenches.
posted by konolia at 2:04 PM on July 1, 2004


"Wet"? Can someone explain that?

Is it an adult baptism thing, the use of alcohol in ceremonies, or something I would need a "blanket" to understand?

(on preview: what hackly_fracture said.)
posted by ltracey at 2:04 PM on July 1, 2004


Isn't this blatantly illegal?

Slimy, perhaps, but I don't see anything illegal in the suggested actions. Tax-exempt organizations (including many churches) can't engage in partisan activities, but their members can, and all the activities described in the link seem to me to be actions by individuals, not by churches.

I'm a member of several tax-exempt organizations, and I would be pretty pissed if someone told me I wasn't allowed to speak with other members of those organizations in support of or against particular candidates. A law that tried to prohibit that would run afoul of the First Amendment, most likely.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:06 PM on July 1, 2004


Speaking to a congregation to get their political support is vastly different from asking congregations to stump for you politically.

Where in the linked article do you see anyone "asking congregations to stump for you politically?" Keeping in mind, of course, that asking individual members of a congregation to stump for you is different than asking the entire church to stump for you.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:13 PM on July 1, 2004


Tax exempt groups take political action all the time on both sides of the aisle.

I mean sheesh, how many organizations that work for "the environment" have a heavy bias in their work for one candidate or another, and those who work for "womens rights" and so on.

Hell, it seems that most of the tax exempt groups I know are effectively in existence specifically for the purpose of political action.
posted by soulhuntre at 2:14 PM on July 1, 2004


black, white, and pinto

I really wanna know ... what the hell does that mean?
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:37 PM on July 1, 2004


those church directories will come in handy during the draft
posted by Satapher at 2:38 PM on July 1, 2004


Speaking to a congregation to get their political support is vastly different from asking congregations to stump for you politically.

If you don't believe the latter occurs in inner-city African-American churches, I've got some lovely waterfront property along the Tigris and Euphrates to sell 'ya. Obviously, the solicitation isn't as transparent as what's going on here, but why should we prefer smoky back room deals?
posted by pardonyou? at 2:43 PM on July 1, 2004


I'm a member of several tax-exempt organizations, and I would be pretty pissed if someone told me I wasn't allowed to speak with other members of those organizations in support of or against particular candidates.

The Masons are tax exempt, and you don't talk about politics or religion there.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:48 PM on July 1, 2004


"Wet" ... implies the less conservative tendency in denominations which can be divided.

In the South, the congregations of (white) Presbyterian and Methodist churches are often more establishment and (in many ways) even more conservative than those of Pentacostal and Baptist congregations.

It's more a mix outside the South, and when you get out to California and the Northeast it's pretty hard to find a Methodist or Presbyterian church where the Kerry bumperstickers won't outnumber the Bush 3:1 or 4:1.

By the way, it is false to suggest that African American churches aren't often thoroughly organized and working to turn out Democratic vote -- they often are, and they do a good job, too.

If you believe that more people participating is better than fewer, you can't have any problem with either them, or the conservative evangelical churches starting to do the same, either.
posted by MattD at 2:49 PM on July 1, 2004


African-American churches do not give their member directories to Democratic candidates. They do not jeopardize their tax-exempt status the way these churches are being encouraged to do.

Bush/Rove/whoever cares not a bit for these churches and what happens to them, as long as they can get voters. They're very very worried about their base, which is a good sign for those us that aren't Republicans.
posted by amberglow at 2:54 PM on July 1, 2004


"black, white, and pinto

I really wanna know ... what the hell does that mean?"


They explode when hit from the rear.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:54 PM on July 1, 2004


The Masons are tax exempt, and you don't talk about politics or religion there.

Because of the culture and/or rules which the Masons have imposed on themselves. Not because it's been imposed from outside.

African-American churches do not give their member directories to Democratic candidates.

The churches are not being asked to give their directories to the candidates. Members of the churches are being asked to give their church directories to the candidates.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:00 PM on July 1, 2004


black, white, and pinto [...] what the hell does that mean?

It means "black, white, and mottled or pied in color", unless I mistake konolia.
posted by freebird at 3:25 PM on July 1, 2004


Ya know, I'm seeing a whole lotta claims made here about afro-American churches ...

and absolutely no evidence. None, Notta, Zip. It's not that I don't believe you fine folk. It's just that you're presenting jack shit for proof. 'Care to pony up, please?
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:41 PM on July 1, 2004


The churches are not being asked to give their directories to the candidates.

The instruction sheet circulated by the Bush-Cheney campaign to religious volunteers lists 22 "duties" to be performed by specific dates. By July 31, for example, volunteers are to "send your Church Directory to your State Bush-Cheney '04 Headquarters or give [it] to a BC04 Field Rep" and "Talk to your Pastor about holding a Citizenship Sunday and Voter Registration Drive."

Eeeek! Have seen church patrons literally "thrown out" of church for this and asked to not come back. They were not having a private conversation but actually one grabbing the pulpit mike, forcing their political beliefs on other patrons as they walked by, one used the church directory to call patrons at home. Anyone else. The funny part is the jaw dropping look the church patron’s face has while being dragged away -while mumbling; “the pastor and I vote the same, what’s wrong.” Can I hear. "a witness" - anyone else?

Maybe this administration is implementing amberglow's post through this technique.
You pray with one eye open - we know where you are.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:43 PM on July 1, 2004


Speaking to a congregation to get their political support is vastly different
If you're going to church for "church" - why would the above make sense? Post a meeting specifically for this in the church’s bulletin{hope all parties would be given equal rights, honestly I would GYOFB}. There are other routes than tying up my time devoted for "not your topic buddy, get off the pulpit.” I would be insulted here and find the speaker having no respect to folks with the added, lacking etiquette here.

Some churches have a constitutions that would limit this activity. Which is implemented by the vote of the church's congregation.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:57 PM on July 1, 2004


John Kerry will speak to the AME convention in Indianapolis next week.
posted by prosthezis at 4:12 PM on July 1, 2004


Black clergy stepping back from political involvement

For black ministers, political tone shifts: Black political leaders in Boston reflect on worries about a changing relationship with clergy in the US.

for two...i have more bookmarked somewhere. i'll post em when i find em.
posted by amberglow at 4:16 PM on July 1, 2004


so if someone got my number out of at church directory, could i sue them like i would someone who sold me to a spam directory? don't churches have privacy policies of some sort?
posted by th3ph17 at 5:52 PM on July 1, 2004


privacy? from the Lord? HAH!
posted by Satapher at 6:52 PM on July 1, 2004


GOP church base:

1)Moonies
2)Southern Baptists
3)Fundies (yeah, I know, redundant)

Dem church base:

National Council of Churches (yes, that includes the AME)

Still want to play the religion card Prince (fabulous) Boy George?
posted by nofundy at 5:03 AM on July 2, 2004


African-American churches do not give their member directories to Democratic candidates. They do not jeopardize their tax-exempt status the way these churches are being encouraged to do.

First, I think Democrats have been just as guilty of this in the past as Republicans have been. While Republicans are more coy about how they use churches to campaign, I've seen dozens of Democratic candidates get up in black churches on a Sunday morning and use the pulpit to openly campaign for an office, often mentioning an opponent by name. Clinton did this often. Gore did it in 2000, and I've see numerous Senate and gubernatorial candidates pull the same thing.

Second, these IRS provisions have only existed in the last 50 years or so. LBJ pushed them through when a preacher in Texas spoke against him from the pulpit. Quite frankly, I think it's foolish to prohibit churches from taking an active role in the political campaigns. A person's religious views (or lack thereof) most certainly affect how one votes, so why do we pretend that's not true. This thread points out the obvious under the table, wink-and-a-nod type of situation that exists now. It's silly. Who cares?
posted by marcusb at 5:17 AM on July 2, 2004


I've seen dozens of Democratic candidates get up in black churches on a Sunday morning and use the pulpit to openly campaign for an office, often mentioning an opponent by name.

There's a giant difference between inviting and/or allowing a candidate to speak, and what the Repubs are doing, which is actually infiltration. The Christian Coalition actually lost its tax-exempt status because of their partisan activities, which are markedly similar to this new drive by Repubs.

There have also been voter-registration drives in Black churches since the 60s, but they're not sponsored and driven by any party.

and, Bush and the other Republican candidates spoke in Black churches too, all over the country in 2000, and Bush still is, now that he's running for reelection.
posted by amberglow at 8:47 AM on July 2, 2004


A complete church calendar for the GOP, courtesy of world o' crap.

Democrats have been just as guilty
Repeated ad infinitum, each and every time some unsavory point cannot be otherwise deflected, as in "Bill Clinton did it too!" BTW, I disagree, you are using an invalid comparison.
posted by nofundy at 11:07 AM on July 2, 2004


I do hope you all realize that if you are registered to vote, your registration is available to be viewed by Republican and Democrat politicians and whoever else wants to see it. That's how they target mailings.

Church directories aren't private listings. They are just a smaller version of a phone book, really.

We have had a voter registration table in our church lobby before. No biggie. Who cares? My husband and one daughter just did the same thing at the local WWF wrestling event held here...signed up quite a few folks, too. A lot of Republicans.
posted by konolia at 1:26 PM on July 2, 2004


A person's religious views (or lack thereof) most certainly affect how one votes, so why do we pretend that's not true.

As soon as churches start paying taxes on their profits and their land, they can endorse or espouse anything they want. But I shouldn't have to subsidize, with tax benefits, an organization which exists to preach a set of political beliefs.

The separation of church and state goes beyond the state's obligation to keep itself from interfering with churches, churches should be obligated to keep their message from being diverted from the word of God to becoming the word of Politician X, or Regime Y.

If a congregation of a church agrees that they are of a political alignment...as well as a purely spiritual alignment...then by all means, they should rename the church; The Green Party Church and Holistic Garden, The Republican Batismal Pool and Bank, The Democratic Holy Spirit and Fish Fry etc., but they shouldn't expect me to subsidize the land use, the salaries, the expenses and all of the other benefits that are gained by the churches large enough to have been targeted by the Bush/Cheney/Rove triangle.

Also, if a church is "for" one candidate and "against" another, then they should put a little sign out front...you know, so the "wrong" type of people don't try to worship at the same place. Because you know, nothing says "private club" better than a place dedicated to a guy who preached inclusiveness, love, and got fairly upset when people turned the temple into a pit of moneylenders.
posted by dejah420 at 5:28 PM on July 2, 2004


Baptists Angry at Bush Campaign Tactics
posted by amberglow at 8:35 PM on July 2, 2004


« Older Mr. Roh, tear down this firewall!...  |  The CDC recently issued new HI... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments