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June 30, 2004

I have a feeling that the Founding Fathers would object to these tactics.

From the Kansas City Star, "This church mission is covert"

Starting next month, the person seated next to you in church might not be there for the prayer, the fellowship or even the word of God. Instead, about 100 volunteers will be attending services in Johnson County to look for overt election-year politicking from the pulpit, which could violate federal law. It is the latest volley in an ongoing struggle between conservative and moderate political forces in Kansas. The issue of gays and marriage provided the trigger. Upset at the Kansas Legislature for defeating a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, the Rev. Jerry Johnston, pastor of First Family Church in Overland Park, invited area clergy members to a meeting this month. About 100 came, he said. Churches, he said, must get more involved in politics. "God calls a minister to speak on moral issues," Johnston said. Concerned that religious leaders might stir up support for their favored legislative candidates, the Mainstream Coalition, a group that seeks to preserve the separation of church and state, decided to respond. Volunteers were recruited. Letters are being mailed to more than 400 houses of worship in Johnson County reminding them of Internal Revenue Service rules on electioneering and telling them that their services may be monitored.

Johnston and other ministers should keep partisan politics out of the pulpit, said Caroline McKnight, coalition executive director. “His job is to lead his flock by setting an example … not by bringing the smoke-filled room into his sanctuary,” she said.

Mainstream Coalition volunteers, like all visitors, are welcome at First Family, Johnston said. The church, he said, will not endorse or attack individual politicians during services. “Are we going to violate the law? Of course not,” he said. “We're not rabid, crazy fanatics.”

The involvement of religious groups in politics has evolved into a heated issue. Many groups steer clear of electioneering. Many immerse themselves in issues and candidates, with their leaders speaking out and trying to motivate.

University of Kansas religious studies professor Tim Miller said churches used to avoid politics . That began changing about 25 years ago, he said. For ministers to hold meetings like the one in Johnson County, he said, indicates an effort to reach out. “Of course, you try to broaden your base,” Miller said. “That's part of politics.”

Some churches have become a campaign force for conservative causes and Republicans. First Family, which has about 3,000 members, is conservative and could be influential.

But churches oftentimes do too little, Johnston said. “Many preachers don't know anything about politics; many don't know who their representatives and senators are,” said Johnston, who added that he should have gotten more involved in the past.

Churches should encourage their members to act, he said. During July, he said, his church and others in Johnson County will hold forums for candidates, register voters and educate people on the issues.

“We have to lead the way,” he said.

Already Johnston has been distributing a pamphlet containing background information on incumbent state legislators from the area. If they supported the amendment against gay marriage, the word YES appears by their picture. If they voted against it, the word NO appears.

In Johnson County, where conservatives and moderates within the GOP have feuded for years, churches and clergy could potentially influence an election.

Consider the re-election campaign of Rep. John Ballou of Gardner, whose 43rd District covers the southwest corner of Johnson County and who voted against the gay marriage amendment.

Churches, he said, will help turn out voters against him. “They're after a number of us on this, they're motivated, and they're mad,” said Ballou, a Republican.

Okay, I will bet any of you $100 that this same group who is going to spy on Churches for the IRS would absolve and probably give tax credits to those churches who support Gay Marriage. I will absolutely guarantee you that the MainStream Coalition is anti-Catholic because of the pro-life view of the Catholic Church.

In fact, this so-called non-partisan group of non-religious (ha!) people was started some years ago by Reverend Meneilly of the Village Presbyterian Church(A very left wing church in Prarie Village, Kansas) attacking the Catholic Church.

This group has had thousands of meetings at churches. Mostly at the Village Church.

I wonder how they would feel if people showed up there to determine if they should continue to be tax free, eh?

And what really hacks me off is that the idjit writer for the KC Star (I stopped taking that rag some time ago to save some trees) who claims that it is an issue between conservatives and moderates - not conservatives and liberals, which is what these so-called moderates really are.

Posted by Beth at June 30, 2004 07:25 PM