'Pulpit Initiative' Raises Serious Moral And Legal Questions For Clergy
New York, NY, September 24, 2008 … A nationwide campaign to encourage Christian clergy to use their congregations specifically to oppose candidates for office that "do not align themselves with Scriptural truth" raises serious moral and legal questions, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said today.
The Alliance Defense Fund, a prominent religious organization based in Arizona, is coordinating a so-called "Pulpit Initiative" in an effort to prompt a showdown with the Internal Revenue Service over a law that bars nonprofits from partisan political activity. The Fund says hundreds of ministers, rabbis and priests across the country are being urged to participate by endorsing a presidential candidate from their pulpits this weekend in violation of IRS code.
"Houses of worship have been legally prohibited from getting involved in political campaigns, and for good reason," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "Calling on clergy to campaign from their pulpits is urging them to defy the law. This campaign raises serious moral and legal questions about the appropriate role of houses of worship in a political campaign."
The League is urging ministers and other religious leaders planning on participating in the "Pulpit Initiative" to reconsider making endorsements from the pulpit, emphasizing that such actions may be illegal and would undermine the Constitution's mandate that there be no religious test for public office.
"Ministers and pastors, in their personal capacity, already have every right to support or oppose candidates for public office," said Mr. Foxman. "They can speak out on political issues, and promote voter participation and voter education initiatives. But politicizing churches coerces congregants, distorts the political system and poses a serious threat to religious liberty."
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.