USA Today Richard W. Garnett 4/16/2006
Religious leaders have long tried to sway their congregants to take sides in political battles. That might offend some, but believers, not the state, should decide when faithful activism crosses the line, says a Notre Dame law professor.
Does politics have a place in the pulpit? Should places of worship be homes for engaged and unsettling activism — or tranquil havens, sealed off from the rough-and-tumble of today’s bitter partisan debates?
These questions are both cutting-edge and perennial. Just a few weeks ago, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Los Angeles proclaimed that the duty to care for vulnerable immigrants might trump the obligation to comply with restrictive immigration laws. Earlier this year — and again last week — dozens of ministers in Ohio complained to the IRS about two prominent evangelical pastors they say crossed the line between tax-exempt religious activities and partisan political campaigning. And the Sunday before the 2004 election, the pastor of a liberal congregation in Pasadena, Calif., raised eyebrows by delivering a hard-hitting anti-war sermon that criticized President Bush sharply and directly.
Of course, none of this is new.
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