Cromey Online

The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Free the Non-Profits

The IRS has decided they can take away a church’s tax exemption if a church group supports a candidate for office or supports legislation. The same is true of all non-profits. That ruling is a direct restriction of the free exercise of religion. The tax people are telling church groups that participation in the democratic process is punishable. I hope religious groups will wake up some day to that miscarriage of justice and infringement of their rights.

A friend wrote me the following thoughtful critique of my view quoted above.

“All institutions and organizations, including those that are non-profit, charitable, or non-partisan, secular or otherwise, are subject to relevant taxation if they participate in partisan political activity.”

As to religion, the first amendment says "Congress shall pass no law respecting the establishment of religion...." refers to the firm belief of the founding fathers that the United States should not have an established church state religion as in England, Sweden, France, Italy etc. They saw that peril comes to the state when there is an established religion and also that religion is controlled and weakened when the church is established. I agree with that completely.

In fact the second sentence...and "Congress shall make no law... prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." makes it clear that the government may not interfere with the free exercise of religion whether against individuals or church organizations. The first amendment tells congress to leave religion alone and not monkey in it. I believe that completely.

I believe non-profit, charitable, educational and religious institutions cow tow to the congress when they silence themselves politically so as to remain tax-exempt. In addition, employees of the local, state and federal government allow the government to prohibit them from publicly supporting candidates or advocating issues of a political nature. I believe this is a violation of free speech. It is also a way the government prevents huge numbers of people from participating directly in the democratic political process.

The religious and non-profits and government employees are too timid to fight for their guaranteed Constitutional rights. We in the non-profit sector of our democracy all should have full freedom of expression and not be threatened by the arm of government called the IRS.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Challenge to my Church State Views and my Response

Hi Robert

Happy Thanksgiving to you. . .

I’m afraid I don’t understand your argument. First, no one questions whether religious people can engage in politics. But religious institutions are a far different question. Even the most cursory reading of American history would say the founding fathers would have taken as a given that when churches become political institutions it undermines civil society. So it’s a straw man to argue that you support Unitarians right to oppose Prop 8 and Mormons right to support it. The question isn’t Mormons or Unitarians, it’s the Mormon church or the Unitarian church.

All institutions and organizations, including those that are non-profit, charitable, or non-partisan, secular or otherwise, are subject to relevant taxation if they participate in partisan political activity. It’s not to punish them for political activity. As a citizen, I am taxed not to punish me for being a citizen, but as the price of citizenship. All these institutions have to do to avoid taxation, if they want to become involved in partisan politics, is set up organizations independent of their church institutions. That’s how the Sierra Club does lobbying and how the Catholic Church manages to get government grants for charitable work. Are you saying that if they don’t they should be treated differently than secular institutions that engage in politics and the taxpayers should subsidize their activity?

Mark



Hi Mark,

Thank you for your thoughtful response to my article on the first amendment. The first part of that says "Congress shall pass no law respecting the establishment of religion...." refers to the firm belief of the founding fathers that the United States should not have an established church state religion as in England, Sweden, France, Italy etc. They saw that peril comes to the state when there is an established religion and also that religion is controlled and weakened when the church is established. I agree with that completely.

I have never read anything in my extensive reading of church and US history that says the founding fathers thought the religious institutions could "undermine civil society." In fact the second sentence...and "Congress shall make no law... prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." makes it clear the the government may not interfere with the free exercise of religion whether against individuals or church organizations. The first amendment tells congress to leave religion alone and not monkey in it. I believe that completely.

I believe non-profit, charitable, educational and religious institutions cow tow to to the congress when they silence themselves politically so as to remain tax-exempt. In addition, employees of the local, state and federal government allow the government to prohibit them from publicly supporting candidates or advocating issues of a political nature. I believe this is a violation of free speech. It is also a way the government prevents huge numbers of people from participating directly in the democratic political process.

The religious and non-profits etc are too chicken to fight for their guaranteed Constitutional rights. So you see, I think we all should have full freedom of expression and not be threatened by the arm of government called the IRS.

Thanksgiving blessings,

Robert

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Free Exercise of Religion

"Separation of church and state" is the catch-phrase that dominates most discourse, as opposed to the actual words of the First Amendment. (From a friend)

Thomas Jefferson coined the term separation of church and state in comments and remarks. It is not part of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. The first amendment to the constitution has this to say about religion and government, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…………….”

Jefferson’s comment is interesting and important but it is not the words of the Constitution. He also commented that there should be a wall of separation between church and state. That too is his personal comment; it is not part of the Constitution.

Congress is not to prohibit the free exercise of religion. When a religious group makes a statement, supports legislation and spends its money to help get laws passed, they are well within their rights to do so. If the congress or the government restricts the right of religious bodies to participate in public discourse or to influence legislation they are in violation of the Constitutional guarantee of the free exercise of religion.

The IRS has decided they can take away a church’s tax exemption if a church group supports a candidate for office or supports legislation. That ruling is a direct restriction of the free exercise of religion. The tax people are telling church groups that participation in the democratic process is punishable. I hope religious groups will wake up some day to that miscarriage of justice and infringement of their rights.

Proposition 8 in California raised the question of church and state for many people. While I totally support same gender marriage, I also uphold the right of religious groups to participate in the democratic process. I champion the right of Episcopalians and Unitarians to oppose Proposition 8. I reluctantly support the right of Roman Catholics, Mormons and evangelical Christians to support it. We all should support the full rights of everyone, including religious people with whom we disagree.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

First Amendment

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…………….”

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Churches and Legislation

Dear Friend,

I enjoyed our sidewalk chat this afternoon. Here is my letter to the editor published in the SF Chronicle last Thursday.

To the Editor of the SF Chronicle published 11/13/08:

Letters to the editor published during the week following the passage of Proposition 8 quote “separation of church and state” as a reason why church groups should not meddle in politics. While I totally support same gender marriage, I also uphold the right of religious groups to participate in the democratic process. I champion the right of Episcopalians and Unitarians to oppose Proposition 8. I reluctantly support the right of Roman Catholics, Mormons and evangelical Christians to support it. We all should support the full rights of everyone, including religious people with whom we disagree. Separation of church and state does not mean the separation of religion and society.

Robert Warren Cromey
San Francisco, CA

Here is a response from a friend.

There is nothing in the U.S. form of government prohibiting or meant to prohibit religious groups from engaging in political discussion and/or action. It's the other way around: there is an express prohibition against the government establishing a state religion or of prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Unfortunately, the meaning of the First Amendment has been stretched in the minds of many to suggest its inverse, that organized religion is somehow prohibited from engaging in politics. As you say in your letter to the Chron, you kind a wish the Mormons and Catholics didn't have the inclination to support regressive initiatives such as Prop 8, but you affirm their right to do that.

It is always good to look at the US Constitution on the matter.

From Amendment One of the Constitution of the United States:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…………….”

Supporting legislation and contributing to its passage is a right for religious groups. The government may not interfere with the free exercise of religion which includes supporting legislation.

Frankly, I do not want the government to tell me or my church who or what I can support. That is interference with religion - mine.

I do not think you would want religious groups NOT to have contributed time and money to support civil rights legislation for Black people in the 60’s as Catholics, Protestant and Jewish religious groups did, or Quakers for trying to pass legislation to outlaw war and work for peace, or church groups giving money toward legislation supporting the rights of women to have abortions which they have, or Episcopalians and Unitarians opposing Prop. 8, which we did.

It is when we don’t like the issues Catholics, Mormons and fundamentalists support – like anti-abortion, anti-birth control and anti-gay marriage that we suggest religious groups do not have the right to be in politics. Then we criticize religious groups for violating the widely misunderstood idea of separation of church and state.

I affirm that religious groups have the right to support social and political with money, words and resolutions even when I disagree with their positions. Separation of church and state does not mean separation of religion and society.

Let’s talk and write more. I always like a challenge.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Go to: change.gov

I sent these following to Obama via change.gov. These are what I think the priorities of the government should be.

"Get out of the present wars. Health care for all Americans. Avoid war. Use the United Nations. Get out of the torture business. Get out of the Imperialism business. Democracy cannot be rammed down the throats of people. Rejoin Kyoto Accords. Clean up the environment. Reduce the gap between the wealthy and the poor. Full rights for homosexuals including the right to marry. End unqualified support to Israel."

The site is for Americans to tell the president and government what you think the priorities should be. The site will also be a way for Obama to bypass the networks to get his ideas, legislation and priorities to people via email.

I think this is a good new way for citizens to participate in democracy. It takes away the censorship and news selection that is so much in the hands of big business and industry and gets more to the people, especially to young people who know how to use the technology of email and websites.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Economy and Environment

Now let me get this straight. The economy is slumping because people are not buying things. They are not purchasing cars or gasoline, TV sets and other appliances. They are not buying more clothes or even very expensive high-end purses. In my neighborhood even garage sales are slumping. People are not buying other people’s junk. Many people leave good things in front of their homes with signs saying “Free. Please Take.”

Presumably, what will help the economy is for people to start buying more stuff again –whether they need it or not. However, the environment is already overcrowded with junk and garbage. Acid wastes threaten water supplies. Too much automobile driving and smoking factories result in air pollution.

Yet in order to save the economy, we are urged to buy more stuff, most of which we don’t need, which in turn will continue to pollute the earth, air and water.

I suspect this dilemma comes about because companies want to make very high profits, pay investors well, provide high salaries for executives and just enough for their employees. These are not evil goals. They are just short sighted.

We need to produce better made and more fuel efficient cars, eat less but more nutritious food, better health care, rebuild the nation’s highways bridges and dams. In addition, building schools, libraries and providing better police and fire protection produce jobs.

In addition to this, we Americans need to get over our tax-a-phobia and start to pay for the things we want government to provide for us.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Barack Obama Elected President of the United States

What a thrill it is, even cool, nonchalant Cromey was moved to tears as the election results came clear. First, an African-American got the votes. But a very close second is that a Democrat won over a Republican in a resounding win and not a squeaker like the last two elections, which gave us a disaster for a president and policies of total failure.

How wonderful and sad at the same time that many African Americans wept tears of joy that one of their own was elected president. Even Condoleezza Rice cried. Sad, because color was an issue in the first place. Sad, that so many white Americans thought people of color were inferior, and many still do.

Wonderful, because no matter what enormous problems Obama faces, the election brings emotional, joy and a sense of positive energetic movement away from the hostile, arrogant negativity of the present incumbent.

It is time to enjoy the warmth of new life and hope.