Thirty-three churches that broke the
law on Sunday to publicly endorse a candidate for president say they
did so to challenge a ban they call unconstitutional. Opponents,
however, are calling it an attempt by Christian fundamentalist to
expand their political power and influence over national politics,
while simultaneously opposing gay marriage rights.
The event, called Pulpit Freedom
Sunday, seeks to challenge a federal amendment to the tax code passed
by Congress in 1954 that forbids charitable organizations from
intervening in political campaigns, and was organized by the Alliance
Participants say they only want to have
the freedom to express their Bible-based viewpoints.
“The basic thrust was this was not a
matter of endorsing, it's a First Amendment issue,” Jody Hice,
pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Bethlehem, Georgia, told The
Associated Press. “To say the church can't deal with moral and
societal issues if it enters into the political arena is just wrong,
But opponents frame the issue very
differently. The Rev. Barry Lynn, of Americans United for Separation
of Church and State, told The New York Times that the event
was more about changing the law to give certain conservative churches
more political clout than an act of civil disobedience.
Parents, Families and Friends of
Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Director of Communications Steve Ralls said
what the ministers were doing was no different than its treatment of
gays and lesbians.
“Right-wing extremists have long
chosen to ignore the constitutional right of [gay and lesbian]
Americans to be treated fairly, and equally, under the law. Now they
have chosen an all-out assault on the law, effectively shredding the
constitution itself, by refusing to acknowledge any separation of
church and state,” Ralls wrote us in an email.
Another gay activist called the
ministers “arrogant” for believing they were above the law.
“These ministers call our [gay and
lesbian] fight for equality special rights,” said Wayne Besen of
Truth Wins Out, a group dedicated to exposing the ex-gay myth. “When
in reality, they believe they are above the law.”
The purported objective of Pulpit
Freedom Sunday – endorsement of a pro-Christian presidential
candidate by clergy – simultaneously attacks gay rights and
marriage. And that's not a coincidence.
Indeed, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF)
is a Christian fundamentalist organization that is opposed to all
forms of abortion, gay marriage, civil unions or domestic
partnerships for gay couples, adoption or fostering of children by
gay people, and gays and lesbians serving in the military. The ADF
also works to establish Christian public prayer in schools and
government events, and supports teaching an abstinence-only sex
education curriculum in the nation's schools.
The organization was formed by
influential right-wing, anti-gay conservatives in 1994 including,
Campus Crusade for Christ Founder Bill Bright, Crown Financial
Ministries Founder Larry Burkett, Focus on the Family Founder James
Dobson, Coral Ridge Ministries Founder D. James Kennedy, and American
Family Association Founder Donald Wildmon.
Dobson's controversial Love Won Out
ex-gay conferences promote the notion that gays and lesbians can be
“cured” through religious faith, while Donald Wildmon has
organized boycotts against Ford Motor Company and McDonald's for
their support of the “gay agenda.”
Wildmon's organizations alone have donated a combined $1 million to
support a proposed constitutional ban on gay marriage in California,
according to CaliforniansAgainstHate.com.
ADF President, CEO, and General Counsel
Alan Sears is the author of The Homosexual Agenda: Exposing the
Principal Threat to Religious Freedom Today.
All ministers who participated in the
event, and whose sermons have been made public, endorsed Senator John
McCain over Senator Barrack Obama for president, citing Obama's
support for gays and lesbians and abortion rights as anti-Christian.
“[Obama's positions on abortion and
gay unions are] in direct opposition to God's truth as he has
revealed it in the Scriptures,” Rev. Ron Johnson Jr. told
worshipers at his Living Stones Church in Crown Point, Indiana,
reports The Wall Street Journal.
The prohibition that has kept clergy
from pulpit politicking over the past 54 years does so only in their
official capacity. Clergy are free to endorse any candidate as a
member of society. And churches may sermonize on social issues and
legislation, such as California, Arizona and Florida's ballot
initiatives that seek to ban gay marriage in each state.
“It seems these churches are more
interested in political posturing and campaigning than religion,”