Politics, Religion and Ethics – Obama’s Presidential Campaign and Messages from the Pulpit!

October 27, 2008

Let me begin by saying, this writing is 100% about law, ethics and the application of the law.  I am in no way, taking a political stand through the content of this entry.  Rather, I am amazed as what I believe is the flagrant violation of the law when it comes to influencing votes in this presidential campaign.

According to Merriam-Webster the definition of ethics is the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation.  Now, that definition is broad and clearly subject to interpretation.  However, good and bad must also be judged in accordance with the law.  One might judge a particular action to be good and ethical, but that same action might be against the law.  Hence, regardless of opinion, the action is unethical.

So, what does this have to do with the election?  Well…it is generally presumed to be against the law for a non-profit religious organization to use their pulpit (I use that term loosly) to influence public opinion for election results or outcome.   Non-profit religious organization can lose their non-profit status if they openly work to endorse a political candidate.  This loss could be costly indeed.

So how would one know if such a thing is happening?  Funny you should ask.  But today I received information about the link I am providing.  It was sent to me raising a question as to what my opinion was related to ethics, politics and the law.  What I saw was amazing – a flagrant disregard for the law and the non-profit status at stake.

PLEASE NOTE:  The following, should you decide to watch, is anti-Obama.  The message is clear.  What is more serious is that someone would knowingly and publically risk the non-profit status with such a clear political message.

Judge for yourself.  Here’s the link.  The message is from ATLAH World Ministries and it’s steamy.  Again, I express no opinion other than the amazement as to the message and risk inherent in its delivery.

WHAT ARE OTHERS SAYING:

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has asked the IRS to investigate the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson, N.J. and Rock Christian Fellowship in Espanola, New Mexico.

According to AU’s letter to the IRS, Roman Catholic Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli has published a letter on Catholic Diocese of Paterson, N.J.’s website and newspaper attacking Barack Obama.”

The letter criticizes Obama for his pro-choice stance and encourages parishioners not to vote for Obama.

AU also wants the IRS to investigate Rock Christian Fellowship in Espanola, New Mexico for posting a large display that encourages voters to support republican candidates over democratic candidates.

In my opinion, what the above mentioned organizations have done is small change in contract to the ATLAH video.

An NPR article states the following:

On Sunday, 33 ministers will take part in a nationwide effort to violate the 54-year-old ban on political preaching and endorse or oppose a candidate from the pulpit. The effort is called the Pulpit Initiative.

Two weeks ago, more than 100 pastors squeezed into a hotel meeting room in Washington, D.C., to learn about the Pulpit Initiative, a brain child of the conservative legal group, Alliance Defense Fund. Attorney Erik Stanley walked them through it.

“If the IRS chooses to come after these churches, we will sue the IRS in federal court,” Stanley said.

Stanley says pastors are fed up. In the past four years, the IRS has stepped up its investigations of clergy. It sent letters to 47 churches, including some liberal ones — not just for explicit endorsements, but also for using code words like pro-choice or pro-life in relation to candidates.

“What’s been happening is that the government has been able to go into the pulpits of America, look over the pastor’s shoulder, and parse the content of their sermon. And that’s unconstitutional,” Stanley said. “No government official should entangle itself with religion in that way.”

HERE’S THE QUESTION FOR YOU – THE READER:  Which is ethical – (1) for the church to follow the dictates of the law and avoid endorsing or disparaging a politicial candidate or (2) to make a “good” decision based on a moral duty and obligation (in the face of the law)?

If you watch the ATLAH video…come back to this site and share your opinion.  Otherwise, your comments welcome on the ethics of religion and politics.