CNN is reporting that All Saints Episcopal Church of Pasadena, CA is in danger of losing its tax-exempt status due to an antiwar sermon.
Apparently, the church in question provided this sermon to its congregation on the eve of the election last November.
Given that there was no specific candidate advocacy, it seems odd to me that this comes up. I know that the timing and content of the message seem to clearly indicate a political preference, but it seems to go too far to indict the content of a sermon for tax purposes when there's no explicit advocacy. After all, Kerry voted for the war too, right? Which is it? Is he a flip-flopper or can this church keep its tax-exempt status?
Just kidding. Sort of.
Seriously, I have to think that this church is being singled out. For example, the Church has been quite vocal on SSM, lotteries, and other social issues. Many contend that these issues being on state ballots may have given us four more years of G-Dub. I know that the lottery issue was pretty significant here in Oklahoma. I'm equally certain that it was on the mind of most, if not all, Mormons at the polls. I don't see how an anti-war sermon on one Sunday is qualitatively worse than a stated Church position on lotteries, especially when the First Presidency is sending standardized letters to be read in sacrament meeting. If the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena thinks the war stands against their vision of God's doctrine, they should be able to say so. I do favor drawing the line at specific advocacy of a candidate, if only because this would represent a specific inclusion in the political sphere. Lines do need to be drawn somewhere. Nevertheless, I'm quite uncomfortable with this, both because of its implications for the Church and because of its potential to intrude into legitimate religious discourse.
I'm also troubled by the framing of Iraq as a strictly political issue. I don't like the attempt to remove this from the moral sphere one little bit. Many good people (some would say all good people, but I'll be open-minded for the moment) would contend that killing people has as many, if not more, moral implications than gay sex. Not that war is necessarily wrong, but the choice to use lethal force seems to me to be something that should be affected by considerations of morality and ethics. If it is the right of a church to speak of a moral issue with political ramifications such as SSM, what then could POSSIBLY justify differential treatment of discourse related to a war?