Wednesday, February 6

Stop silencing the voice....

I wrote this article in response to the ACLU's continued fight to keep the moral voice of Americans silenced through the continued enactment of a bad law.....The Johnson Act of 1954.

"Let us look forward to the time when we can take the flag of our country and nail it below the Cross, and there let it wave as it waved in the olden times, and let us gather around it and inscribed for our motto: 'Liberty and Union, one and inseparable, now and forever,' and exclaim, 'Christ first, our country next!'." -Andrew Johnson

"Politics do not belong in the Church," the voice proclaims, "But we will ensure the purging from our public life of all those priests who have mistaken their profession and who ought to have been politicians and not pastors."

No, not the words of the ACLU or the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Not even the defensive ramblings of Obama, Clinton, Romney, or Thompson in reference to their all too public and all evidently shallow professions of faith. Bryan Fischer, Executive Director of the Idaho Values Alliance points these quotes are attributed to one person and one person only and are the age-old agenda of tyranny and repression. Adolph Hitler uttered those words in December of 1934.

Dan Gilgoff, Senior Editor at U.S. News & World Report, would have us believe that this is clearly evident by the passage of the 1954 legislation that forbids political activity that aims to help, or hurt, candidates for public office for tax-exempt organizations, commonly referred to 501(c) 3 organizations or non-profits. Churches, according to Gilgoff's research or opinion, are forbidden to aid or oppose candidates for elected office.

"Tax exemptions for non-profit groups were never intended to offer tax relief to partisan political advocacy," Gilgoff proclaims should be the impus for concern regarding the IRS enforcement failures of the bill, "....Congress set out to fix in 1954: preventing Uncle Sam from subsidizing [it]."

Gilgoff brushes aside allegations that the bill, originally attached to another, unrelated bill by then-Senate Minority Leader Lyndon Johnson, was nothing more than Johnson's usage of the 'whatever goes' Congressional attitude of the time to derail the support of two non-profit organizations (Facts Forum and the Committee for Constitutional Government--neither church organizations) of his opponent in the coming election as something 'conservative Christians' bring up. No matter, Gilgoff opinions, the courts have upheld the Law.

Patrick O'Daniel, the historian who authored an in-depth study of this legislation, points out that two things are clear; the restriction on electioneering was motivated solely by Senator Johnson's calculated effort to protect his own political skin and the Senator wasn't concerned in the slightest about the activities of churches. The Senator's own staff supported this view, and the actions of the Senator to secure support from churches when it benefitted him show some validitity to such statements.

Gilgoff's declaration of legality by default of the Johnson Amendment of 1954 runs into immediate and constitutional rough waters when applied to the standards of the First Amendment verbage and historical understanding. In an article entitled, Of Politics and Pulpits: A First Amendment analysis of IRS restrictions on the political activities of religious organizations, Steffen N. Johnson explores some of the policy justifications offered in support of restricting the political activities of tax-exempt religious organizations.

"Our nation has demonstrated a 'profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open'." Johnson points out and cites free exercise as being described as our "first freedom" to which the Supreme Court observes "a free-speech clause without religion would be Hamlet without the prince."

Throughout American history, until the moment in time in 1954 when a person agenda hijacked the American political process, Churches have been free to engage in "public debate over issues, morality, and other matters of conscience." Political and religious speech are at the core of the First Amendment, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech........"

Arguments, like Gilgoff's, that the restrictions imposed by Johnson's amendment is justified "because it is inappropriate or unseemly" for churches to engage in the political process of this country are in direct opposition, Stefan Johnson points out, to historical and societal understanding of traditional roles of such religious organizations. "As long as anyone can remember, churches have raised society's consciousness regarding political issues," Johnson argues, "[by commenting] on the culture, [rebuking] its leaders, and boldly [denoucing] its mores."
Political struggles regarding slavery, taxation, capital punishment, and civil rights are all marked by church involvement and a people's definition of their beliefs being declared upon the political issues. As Johann Baptist Metz is quoted as saying in Johnson's article, "It is impossible to privatize the eschatological promises of biblical tradition; liberty, peace, justice, reconciliation. Again and again, they force us to assume our responsibility towards society."

Candidates are known for their ideals, policy stance, and personal faith, as is clearly evident in the religious declarations echoing across the political landscape of the current crop of political hopefuls. Politicians are taking the Oath of Office upon their personal religious icons rather than the traditional methods. Democratic seekers are often found in front of congregations declaring their commonality of faith in seeking the votes for the political office they desire. The political process is such that the people, if they so choose, can vote against a candidate that doesn't reflect their values, ideology, or theology and give it to one that does. It is ridiculous that the governmental bodies that we elect declare that the very bulwark of our faith, the church, cannot speak about political issues that are affected by the understanding of their faith because it would support or oppose candidates seeking public office.

The Republic, designed to be a government of the people, for the people and accountable to the people governed, has become a government body of dictatorships out of synch with the general public. Politicians who are supposed to represent the people shun traditional nods to the faith of the majority by declaring personal preference in taking the oath that is supposed to show their understanding of the representation they've been entrusted with.

As Johnson points out, "There is a healthy pluralism of approaches to involvement in politics in American churches." Some churches go out of their way in the cultural sensitive style they promote to stay out of political discussions while others jump upon an opportunity to mock the Johnson Amendment of 1954 by running the line between personal endorsement and denominational endorsement of a candidate. Typically, the congregations that pay the salaries of the leadership have the leadership they desire and the political opinions of that leadership reflect the political opinion of the congregational majority. If not, the leadership is replaced or the congregation moves elsewhere.

Isn't it governmental endorsement of religion to silence the viewpoint of those who lead by their religious conscience to take an active role in the politics of the culture they are called to serve, by that same religious conscience. Stephen Carter, quoted by Stefan Johnson, states, "If the state is able to manipulate the content of religious doctrine through its power to extend or deny the favored tax treatment, the religions are already well down the road to compromising their autonomy." The government is allowing the abuse of the First Amendment, which prohibits the exercising of freedom of religion, by silencing the expression of the church leadership's freedom of speech. Sermons are edited of religious convictions because they may endorse one candidate that supports those convictions and oppose another that doesn't.

By affecting the "uninhibited, robust, and wide-open" discussion of public issues, the government is prohibiting the church leadership in guiding their congregations to hold visible and publicly powerful political officials to accountability on moral convictions shared by the faith reflected within the walls of the church. Leadership in the church must be content-neutral while trying to convey biblical or religious views that aren't. The churches of today represent varying religious ideals that range from democratic to republican, conservative to liberal, and even pro-life or pro-choice. To say that such a "political opposite" viewpoints would be homogeneous and thus affect the political process is foolish and insulting to the people who the process was designed to accomodate.

To say that the view that such restrictions of the churches' political activism help to ensure that nondeductable contributions aren't funneled so that they become deductable is a valid concern,but inappropiately applied in this situation. A minister's endorsement of a candidate by speaking of the moral or biblical qualifications of such political officials oppose no threat to governmental oversight of such abuses. There is a clear line between endorsing a candidate due to common religious beliefs and endorsing a candidate because of unfair and unethical campaign contributions.

Congress has effectively silenced through threats the ethical and religious exercise of free speech in churches that bear responsibility to remark on the moral character and responsibility of those in politics who are dependent on the voting public who subscribe to that religious faith. It would cause more alarm, and be more consistent in the understanding of the purpose of the Johnson Amendment of 1954 if churches were making comments upon those officials that had direct effect upon them than officials who make national and international policy that affect the whole populace. And it would be clearly evident in a religious organization's attempt to affect an outcome in such a local setting.

Of course, the process well underway in Senator Johnson's time has developed further and further away from the pure and unadulterated birth began with the giants of the past; Washington, Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson to name a few and the smaller in stature but no less important common citizentry of a fledgling republic.

The politician has developed into an office not of the common people but the uncommon oration of those who can blind the majority into thinking that the politician is the best or, at worse, not the worst person to do the job. But, whereas the system was designed to operate upon the personal honor and patriotic duty of a few to be in service to the All, the few have become a nation unto themselves, where the service is to themselves and the rest of the group rather than the majority of citizens who don't live in Washington and aren't sought after by those with money to pass their own agendas.

The nonpartisan design of the 'loser' of the election becoming the Vice-President of the nation and the 'winner' becoming President, we have a two and three party system that elects their choicest by the electoral college vote instead of the popular vote (except for one time in political history where the reverse happened).

Instead of upholding the Law in accordance with the desires of the representatives of the People, i.e. Congress, the judicial system is made up of those individuals who decide laws and how they will be enforce rather than being the voice of the Law to begin with.

Regardless of whether you believe this nation was founded upon the tenets of the Judeao-Christian faith or simply the luck of a few misguided rebels who were fortunate enough to be able to create such a nation, it doesn't have any weigh upon the unconstitutional havoc that is being perpetrated throughout the national landscape as the Congress has continually used bad legislation like the Johnson Act of 1954 to silence the recognized voice of morality in the nation, the churches.

Its time to end the silence that has muzzled the spiritual voice of Americans throughout the ages and return to a REPRESENTATIVE government.............




SO HELP US GOD...........

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