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A Bishop's Endorsement Provokes Protest

For eight years, Democrats have complained about clergy who promoted President Bush and other conservatives, saying it is divisive to portray a candidate or a party as being more (or less) on God's team. But now that Democratic candidates are talking about religion more than Republicans, the tables may have turned.

Today, Sen. Barack Obama's campaign put out a news release announcing that he has the support of New Hampshire Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson. The Obama campaign identified Robinson as "a civil rights leader and a leading voice in the faith community." He is more widely known as the gay Episcopal priest whose election to bishop in 2003 fueled massive debate about Scripture and sexuality in the Episcopal church, and led some Episcopalians to leave the church.

Three hours after the announcement, Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, said it was "just the latest example of candidates misusing religious leaders for political gain."

Gaddy said he was sending a letter to all the presidential candidates asking them not to make endorsements that appear to be speaking on behalf of their house of worship or denomination.

"In recent presidential campaigns little concern has been in evidence about the negative consequences that certain political strategies bring about for houses of worship," Gaddy's letter read.

Robinson's support for Obama came, according to the campaign's news release, during a "conference call today with reporters," when Robinson said he believes "Obama's faith" and background make him uniquely qualified to lead America.

--Michelle Boorstein

Posted at 4:49 PM ET on Aug 2, 2007  | Category:  Barack Obama
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Comments

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I think it's clear that the tax status of religious organizations should and does depend on "staying out of politics", but where do you draw the line? Gene Robinson, as an individual, has the right to endorse a political candidate. It is only by implication that Gene Robinson's endorsement indicates a position of a religious organization. I believe voters can think and understand that they will not be damned by their voting decision. (I think that we are punished enough by our bad decisions while we are living.)

Further, what about religious perspectives on issues? The Catholic Church officially opposes abortion; should their tax status be questioned because of this or are they simply providing needed spiritual guidance on a complex issue? As another example, I have yet to attend a service where a prayer for peace was not given - would this qualify for a political position? My underlying point is that the IRS could prevent all of these things from occurring, given enough manpower and force, but the loss to reasonable discussion and political thought is not worth it. Besides, even if it was enforced, the tax status would only change from a tax free religious organization to a tax free political or social organization.


Posted by: brbwagner | August 3, 2007 12:36 PM

I assume the posters above, when using the term 'church' actually are just using shorthand and really mean 'church, synagogue, mosque or temple'. In which case they are correct - tax free status should be contingent on staying out of politics.

Posted by: bsimon | August 3, 2007 11:41 AM

I agree with Saleoni....all of the churches should be taxed if ANY of its members in OFFICIAL capacities (Pastor, Bishop, etc) speak their opinions about politics. In this case, yes, because the "bishop" spoke it, the Episcopalians should have their Tax free status revoked.

Posted by: thebloddletting | August 3, 2007 8:37 AM

Re: Neverleft's comment regarding tax exempt status--the tax exempt status should be pulled from ALL churches. Please explain the difference of a Gene Robinson endorsement--his personal opinion, not the churches, and that of a Pat Robertson, or the likes? As a non-practicing Jew, I find the christian preferential treatment in this country appalling and it's verbal acknowledgment of Jews pathetic. In today's political environment, ALL churches should be taxed or all church representatives should shut up!

Posted by: saleoni | August 2, 2007 7:58 PM

Pull the tax exempt status of this guy's church! He should know better than to endorse candidates!

Posted by: NeverLeft | August 2, 2007 5:27 PM

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