It's Clergy Appreciation Month! Who Knew?

"Every October, congregations across the nation set aside time to honor their pastors for their hard work and sacrificial dedication," James Dobson's Focus on the Family e-screed reminds us ... and guess what? "It's time to do that again."

But the good news is, all of those pastors have already saved the souls of everyone in their congregations, and we know that because ...

"It's also a great time to encourage them to get involved politically." 

"In addition to saying, 'Thank you,'" the post continues, "it's a great time to let pastors know how they can be involved in the political arena and speak biblical truth on the moral issues of the day."

Wow! Great idea! You mean "moral issues of the day" like Bush's war that's mortgaging our children's and grandchildren's future, making America hated around the world, deep-sixing the value of the dollar and killing thousands of our kids and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis? Like the fact that Bush just vetoed the re-funding of health care for children? Like Bush's reneging on his promise to rebuild New Orleans? Like the Bush administration's failure to take any effective action on the sub-prime mortgage crisis that will cause millions of Americans to become homeless in a few months? Like the fact that there's no universal healthcare system in place for the 47 million Americans who don't have any?

Yeah, that's what they'll be speaking "biblical truth" about! 

Thankfully, the "good folks" at Focus on the Family, the Alliance Defense Fund, Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America and the James Madison Center for Free Speech have released a .pdf file to help preachers over the rough spots of that "speaking biblical truth," where previously those preachers had had the temerity to tell congregants not to vote for any candidate who, for instance, didn't support overturning Roe v. Wade, or didn't support banning gay marriage.

Oh, no; wait; that's okay, as long as they don't mention any names! 

Here's some of their advice:

"Candidates may be introduced at a church service or may preach or read scripture without restriction. In addition, public  officials, who are also candidates, may be invited to speak to a church as a public official, without complying with the  above requirements, if no reference is made to their candidacy, if they speak only in his/her capacity as a public official and  if there is no campaign activity in connection with their appearance."

So, y'see, it's okay to invite Senator Sam Brownback, Governor Mike Huckabee, Representative Tom Tancredo, Senator John McCain, Governor Mitt Romney, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Senator Fred Thompson as long as you don't invite Candidate Sam Brownback, Candidate Mike Huckabee, Candidate Tom Tancredo, Candidate John McCain, Candidate Mitt Romney, Candidate Rudy Giuliani and Candidate Fred Thompson, because "Lord" knows, the congregation just doesn't get enough of those folks on Fox Propaganda Channel.

Also: "A church may use an insubstantial amount of their funds (5 to 15 percent) to discuss legislative issues, support or oppose legislation, encourage its members or the general public to support or oppose legislation and support other organizations with their lobbying efforts. Furthermore, churches may lobby candidates on their positions on issues and distribute educational material to candidates or at political events, as long as this is being done to get out the organization’s message and not to assist any candidate."

In other words, make sure that poster that says "Riverrun Baptists Say Vote Pro-Life" doesn't touch that poster next to it that says, "Vote Sam Brownback - Proudly Pro-Life."

Yep, the fun never stops when you mix religion with politics!

But there may be a fly in the ointment.

"In a joint letter Oct. 1," writes Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, "the Alliance Defense Fund, Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America and the James Madison Center for Free Speech [Wow - why do those names seem so familiar?] attacked Americans United for allegedly intimidating evangelical pastors who want to speak out on social issues...

"Dobson and [Family Research Council president Tony] Perkins recently participated in a top-tier Religious Right meeting to discuss a possible third-party nominee for president if Republicans advance a candidate who fails the movement’s litmus tests on abortion and gay rights. Evangelical church support would be critical to make that move viable politically."

But at heart, Lynn's an optimist — as anyone who's read his excellent book Piety and Politics could easily tell.

"Pastors understand," Lynn continued, "that Sunday morning is a time for helping people connect with God, not for issuing slanted 'voter guides' that are little more than instructions on whom to vote for." ...

One IRS document warns, "Although any document that identifies candidates and their positions close in time to an election has the potential to result in political campaign intervention, preparation or distribution of voter guides, because of their nature, present a particular risk for non-compliance."

"Lynn advised pastors to reject the Religious Right’s unsolicited and unhelpful advice."

Spoilsport! Let's see if they call out for you to identify yourself this year at the Values Voter Summit (Oct. 19-21)! 


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