Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Dean to the Religious: "Shut Up"?

During an interview with the Christian Science Monitor last Wednesday, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said, "The religious community has to decide whether they want to be tax exempt or involved in politics."

Many religious groups are confused or suspicious as to what this means and for whom this statement was intended, and for good reason. In July 2005, Dean spoke at an African Methodist Episcopal Church convention to promote the Democratic party. This was followed by a visit to the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. in September 2005. Interestingly, while campaigning, Howard Dean marketed his signs to churches to be placed on their property, and the Democratic National Committee has a religious communities site on their webpage.

So what does all this mean? Is Howard Dean suggesting that because these religious groups have accepted and supported the Democratic Party and their candidates they should have their tax exempt status revoked? Was he referring to Rev. Jesse Jackson and his organization? Or is he targeting specifically those churches that tend to be more conservative in nature? Thus far, the only rule for churches and organizations with tax-exempt status is that they are not to promote a specific party or candidate (by doing things like putting signs on their property). The federal rules have never said or meant that they were supposed to be muzzled about their opinions on issues of the day.

Regardless of which groups are his target, religious freedom and conscience have been a part of the American tradition since before the Revolutionary War began. Pastors spoke from their pulpits on behalf of the American revolution. Northern pastors and their congregants spoke out against slavery. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a minister and mobilized churches to stand for the civil rights of African-Americans.

Churches are made up of American citizens, and these citizens ought not be told to shut up about their views on issues affecting the U. S. just because those topics might be deemed political, especially in a culture in which virtually everything is considered political. Let's not forget that religious Americans are still Americans and have First Amendment rights, too.


At 4/25/2006 2:30 PM, Blogger ACG said...

Just happened upon your blog. Interesting read...

Take care,


At 7/19/2006 10:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a test.


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