Repeal Church Politicking Ban, Says Minn. Rep. Tied To Religious Right

A U.S. House member who is closely aligned with the Religious Right has called for scrapping a federal law that bans church intervention in partisan politics.

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) told listeners to a radio show in March that she favors repeal of the restriction on electioneering by non-profit groups.

The Minnesota Independent reported that Bachmann had been asked what people can do to elect more members like her to Congress. She replied that church-based activity is important but expressed frustration over the limits placed on it.

“The reason why clergy are afraid to be involved is because of an amendment that former President Lyndon Johnson passed when he was a senator from Texas…that stops 501(3)(c) organizations from saying anything political from the pulpit,” Bachmann said.

She added, “Now, churches can be political from the pulpit. They can talk about issues all they want. What they can’t do is endorse a candidate from the pulpit. But the ACLU has been all over the backs of churches…. Christians and Jews and people of faith are not second-class citizens…but these radical leftist organizations have been intimidating Christians for so long and pastors don’t generally know that they do have the right to speak out from the pulpit.

“Congress should repeal that amendment from Lyndon Johnson…. We need to repeal that and give Christians back their First Amendment rights to free speech in the church,” concluded Bachmann.

Bachmann’s hostility toward the anti-church politicking measure may stem from personal experiences. In October of 2006, Americans United asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park after its pastor, Mac Hammond, endorsed Bachmann from the pulpit and invited her to speak to the congregation.

(Bachmann singled out the ACLU for abuse, but that organization has not been involved with the church politicking issue at all.)

In other news about religion and politics:

• A “scorecard” that surveyed city council candidates on issues of personal religious belief, church attendance and social issues sparked controversy in Farmington, N.M., last month.

The survey was drawn up by Drew Degner, campaign manager for city council candidate Robert Moon. Degner said he intended to distribute it only at his church, Emmanuel Baptist.

“People want to vote for a person that mimics their values,” Degner told the Farmington Daily Times. “I did it as part of church as a Christian.”

But some candidates objected, noting that the questionnaire did not mention Degner and his role with Moon’s campaign. Candidates also said questions on issues like same-sex marriage and abortion were not relevant to local government.

“I would not promote my religious beliefs as a means to influence voters in an election for public office and would not agree to let others use them for that purpose,” mayoral candidate Tommy Roberts said in response to the survey.

During the March 2 election, Roberts was easily elected and Moon lost to incumbent council member Jason Sandel by about 100 votes.