Jones Attacks AU As ‘Evil,’ Pushes Backdoor Church Politicking Bill

U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) believes that people opposed to his bill\n that would legalize partisan politicking by houses of worship aren’t\n just misguided or wrong – they’re “evil.”

Jones made the comments during a Sept. 20 interview with the New Bern, N.C., Sun\n Journal. The congressman was in town to speak at a dinner sponsored\n by the local branch of the Christian Coalition and took a few minutes beforehand\n to talk about his bill with the newspaper.

Asked about the presence of 30 anti-Christian Coalition protestors outside,\n Jones called them “evil people,” and added, “They are so\n fearful of traditional, conservative religion in America. These people are\n bad for the future of America.”

Jones also seems to be getting a touch paranoid. He openly wondered if the\n protestors were affiliated with Americans United, which has led the opposition\n to the church-electioneering measure.

In fact, the people marching outside were local residents opposed to the\n agenda of the Christian Coalition and the larger Religious Right. The protest,\n organized by the New Bern Peace & Justice Coalition, was designed to draw\n attention to recent attacks on church-state separation, including Jones’ bill\n and the Bush administration’s “faith-based” initiative.

Protestors carried signs reading, “Democracy, not theocracy.” Participant\n Howard Shirley remarked, “When a certain religion controls your government,\n we’re all sunk.”

Congress has not been receptive to Jones’ proposal. In October of 2002,\n the House of Representatives rejected the bill by a 239-178 vote. A majority\n of the American people also opposes the measure. A recent poll by the Pew Forum\n on Religion & Public Life found that 65 percent of Americans oppose the\n type of church-based politicking that Jones’ bill would allow.

Undaunted by public opinion, Jones has been busy trying to sneak his bill\n through Congress by backdoor methods. He and his supporters lobbied House leaders\n to include his proposal in a corporate tax bill moving through Congress, The\n Hill newspaper has reported.

The tax bill has already passed the House and the Senate but in different\n forms. As Church & State went to press, a conference committee\n composed of House and Senate members was meeting to iron out the differences.\n Jones has been pressuring committee members to include his language, even though\n neither the House nor Senate version of the bill contains the language.

According to the account in The Hill, 131 members of the House backed\n the Jones effort and wrote to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) pressing for\n action. Meanwhile, in the Senate, U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) has taken\n up the Jones cause.

But another powerful senator, John McCain (R-Ariz.) is reported to be strongly\n opposed to including the Jones language in the tax bill. In late September,\n reports surfaced that McCain had personally addressed every GOP member of the\n conference committee and explained his opposition.

“This is a backdoor ploy to recruit America’s houses of worship\n into partisan politicking,” said Lynn. “Jones and his allies can’t\n win on the floor of either house, so they’re trying this scheme to circumvent\n the legislative process.”