Sunday, June 15, 2008

Above the Law, for the God's Will

Pastor Gus Booth has moxie. He is a pastor at Warroad Community Church in Minnesota. He deserves praise for devoting his life to spreading the Lord's word and preaching from the Good Book.

That said, the pastor needs a lesson in humility. The United States grants tax-exempt status to churches. One of the conditions for that status is that the churches do not engage in politicking from the pulpit. Pastor Booth knows this, yet has determined that it is his place, his right, and his duty to inform his congregation in sermon that no Christian can vote for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. I was unaware that God was a Republican.

What's more concerning, in my mind, is that he seems to believe that not only is it his obligation, but that the good people at Americans United for Separation of Church and State operate to "intimidate" individuals such as pastor Booth into remaining silent on the issue. This is rather misguided.

Nobody is telling the pastor that he cannot have a political opinion. Nobody's telling him that he cannot share that opinion. The issue lies with pastor Booth's attempt to have his cake and eat it, too. As the top official of his church, his salary is paid by tax-exempt contributions. One of the conditions of that tax exempt status is that you do not engage in politicking. If the pastor wants to engage in politicking, then he needs to give up his tax-exempt status. If he does not want to give up the tax-exempt status, then he needs to hold his tongue. You have to take the bitter with the sweet. This protects the government and the church. Too often that dual benefit goes unrecognized, and that is unfortunate.


Bruce said...

Has anyone ever actually enforced this by removing tax-free status from a religious institution that engaged in politics? Because I can't imagine this is the first time; in fact I'm guessing there is no time when its not happening somewhere in the US.

Steve said...

I'm sure you're right, Bruce. And I do have issue with that to the extent that it has been subject to a tax-exempt status. The problem, more directly here, in my opinion is that Pastor Booth knows the law and is not only flaunting his violation of it, but he's taunting an organization bent on preserving the separation of church and state from such violations. That he does not seem to understand the carrot and stick concept of this law does concern me because of his position of authority...