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

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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

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