Thursday, May 12, 2005

No Free Speech For the Righteous

Politics does not have any place in a house of worship, opines the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette this morning. (Before I launch into my commentary on this op-ed piece, please allow me to point out that there never seems to be any complaint from leftist rags like the PG whenever people like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry or their white-collared surrogates campaign in churches before receptive audiences. Thank you.) Says the editorialist:

Preachers aren't expected to be constitutional scholars, but part of their call should include a healthy sense of the separation of church and state. The Rev. Chan Chandler of the East Waynesville Baptist Church in western North Carolina learned the hard way that politicking from the pulpit and a church's tax-exempt status don't mix.
"Separation of church and state" is how the left summarizes the part of the First Amendment to the US Constitution that refers to religion. What does the amendment actually say? "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." This is the federal constitution. The word "Congress" refers to the federal government. The text simply says that the federal government cannot impose a state religion on the people, nor can it outlaw any religion. That's it. Keep this in mind as we continue reading.

Rev. Chandler resigned Tuesday after unwanted national press showed him breaching Thomas Jefferson's "wall of separation" by expelling nine members of his congregation. Their sin? Supporting the Democratic Party.

On the eve of the 2004 election, Rev. Chandler campaigned for President Bush and harangued his congregants about how a Christian should vote. He made it clear that it was their duty to go Republican or "repent and resign."

Expelling people from the congregation for their political views is indisputably harsh. The preacher was wrong for doing that. But what is this "wall of separation" business? It is a term that Jefferson, as President, used in a famous letter to a small religious group that was concerned about the matter of religious liberty in early America. Jefferson rightly pointed out that religion is a matter of individual conscience. By "wall of separation", Jefferson meant that the Constitution was the people's way of keeping government from either establishing or restricting religion. Keep Government and Religion separated. Wise words indeed. But Jefferson couldn't see how his words would be twisted and manipulated over 200 years later.

After President Bush won, the good reverend couldn't find it in his heart to be a gracious winner. According to those who attended a congregational meeting last week, he once again drew a line through the pews. The next morning, nine souls found their names removed from the church's rolls.

Within days, the story had circulated nationwide. Talk of an Internal Revenue Service investigation and a challenge to the church's tax-exempt status had a sobering effect on Rev. Chandler. He began insisting that the expulsions were a "misunderstanding" and that everyone was welcome to worship at the church as long as they "love God."

Again, the preacher was being a jerk. He should have known, however, that he would have to change his tune in the face of an IRS threat. Did the preacher, at any time, go to Congress and get a law passed that established his religion -- or his politics, for that matter -- as the official belief system of the country? No. And neither do those churches that allow Democrats to campaign from the pulpit. I'm glad that he toned down the rhetoric and became more open about letting people come to his church, but the reason that he did so is more outrageous than what he did. A government agency, or perhaps the fear thereof, restricted his ability to say what he believes in his church. That is a lot more scary and disturbing than the act of kicking nine people out of his church. The PG goes on:
Oh really? The church he led for three years became divided this week over his vindictive actions, then several of his fellow Southern Baptist ministers denounced his views. On Tuesday the preacher did the right thing and quit.
The other ministers from his denomination are the ones who should been involved in a matter like this -- not some government agency like the IRS. Removing the church's tax-exempt status would be tantamount to a violation of the "free exercise" clause of the First Amendment.

In all his years of preaching, it would be shocking if Rev. Chandler had not read the passage from 1 Corinthians which reminds us that in the family of God, it doesn't matter if people are "Jews or Gentiles, slave or free." Dare we add Democrats or Republicans?

First the PG misinterprets the law of the land, then they try to amend the Bible. Is nothing sacred to these people?

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