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10/04/2010

If not church/state, could 'pro-fams' at least divorce drive to win from right to raise questions?

by Jeremy Hooper

On September 3, Rev. Cary K. Gordon of Sioux City, Iowa's Cornerstone World Outreach sent the following letter to fellow pastors in his area:

(zoom in at bottom)

CWO Letter

The whole gist of Mr. Gordon's letter -- beyond linking his political opposition to Hitler, of course -- is to encourage pastors to in turn encourage their congregants to vote against the Iowa judges who joined the unanimous decision that removed gender discrimination from the state's marriage laws. And since Mr. Gordon's church as well as all of the other churches to whom he sent the letter are receiving tax exempt status, this kind of activity raises undeniable questions regarding its lawfulness.

So that's where Americans United for Separation of Church and State steps into the story. That group has filed a complaint with the IRS, asking that the matter be looked into further:

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, said the church’s campaign is a clear violation of federal tax law.

“I don’t think I have ever seen a more outrageous effort to politicize churches,” said Lynn. “This deplorable scheme seeks to turn houses of worship into dens of inequity and intolerance. I call on the IRS to move swiftly to put a stop to this outrage.

“It’s bad enough that the leaders of this church are using donations from the collection plate to fund a hardball political operation,” Lynn continued. “It’s even more appalling that they are doing so in a bigoted attempt to deny civil rights to a targeted minority. This is downright shameful.”

Iowa Church’s Election Campaign Against State Supreme Court Justices Merits IRS Investigation [AUFSOC&S]

Which is a completely fair move, regardless of where one stands on marriage equality, the upcoming retention vote, church and faith, Hitler comparisons, or any of the other matters at hand. Because the law is concrete. And if a church is violating tax code for *any reason*, citizens have the right, nay, responsibility to raise questions. And we'd say the same exact thing if it were a pro-equality church engaging in questionable election activity.

But leave it to the "pro-family" side to once again shirk responsibility, abandon the opportunity to objectively weigh and disseminate information for their followers, and proceed to shape their side into the unquestionably innocent victims. This report comes from Focus on the Family:

(click to play audio clip)
*AUDIO SOURCE: Iowa Pastor Menaced for Political Speech [FoTF]

And of course there's no mention of Gordon's harsh rhetoric. No mention of the genuine concerns at hand. No talk about all churches' responsibility to make sure they are in accordance with the law. Instead, Focus and Rev. Gordon talk about the supposed "attacks" being waged against the church, with the outcome coming down to "praying hard" for the matter to play out favorably for the pastor (again, with no regard for the facts regarding tax law).

Now, will the IRS ultimately side with Americans United for Separation of Church and State? Well, we don't know. We haven't dug in far enough to weigh how we view this church and this pastor's compliance with the law. But the breadth of the case doesn't matter in terms of our objections. Because the issue here is the right of citizen groups to raise questions, the responsibility for all of us to act in accordance with law, the ethical guidelines that churches must follow in order to obtain financial privileges, the need for this nation to maintain fair election practices, and the duty for all movements to sometimes drop the merits they might see in a particular political fight and instead consider the elements that exist independent of the cause. We are more than willing to do just that. In fact, we insist on doing that. But our opposition never does, a major reason why this nation's so-called "culture war" is such a hot mess of deceptive, dumbed down discourse!

***

*MORE: Rev. Gordon has issued another letter responding to the Americans United action. One that begins by using WorldNetDaily to support a lie claiming that the American Psychiatric Association "repudiated the fallacy of born gay science," when in actuality (a) it's the American Psychological Association that's being discussed, and (b) the APA has not AT ALL stated what WorldNetDaily and Rev. Gordon claim they have!

That response letter here:


Gordon response letter

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