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First Amendment Advocate, Vol. 3, No. 1, February 2002

The Newsletter of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United

Pat Robertson Pushes House Bill Allowing Churches to Endorse Political Candidates

On his Christian Broadcasting Network show on Jan 7th Robertson promoted a House bill that would revise provisions of federal tax law and allow houses of worship to endorse political candidates. The measure, H.R. 2357, has been introduced by Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and has 110 cosponsors, almost all of them Republicans.

 

Appearing as a guest on Robertson's "700 Club," Jones urged viewers to contact their House members and pressure Rep. Bill Thomas, chair of the Ways and Means Committee, to schedule a hearing on the bill in March.  Jones said the measure was drafted by the American Center for Law and Justice, the legal arm of Robertson's religio-political empire.

 

Robertson made the partisan character of the Jones bill clear. Railing against the "draconian" character of federal tax law, Robertson said on the show, "As it is now, if somebody comes out and says, 'I support George Bush,' theoretically the IRS can come in and take away their tax exemption."

 

Robertson's attempt to change federal tax law and prod America's churches into partisan politics comes only four weeks after his Dec. 5 announcement that he was quitting as president of the Christian Coalition to push national revival and "focus on those things that will bring forth the greatest spiritual benefit."

 

Robertson's critics were not surprised at his quick relapse into partisan politics.  “This leopard will never change his spots," said Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

 

"Robertson is as interested in winning votes for the Republicans as he is in winning souls."  During his show, Robertson charged that Americans United has sent a "scare letter out to churches which was filled with misinformation" about involvement in politics. In fact, Americans United has simply provided accurate informational materials to church leaders about the kinds of activities that are allowed and forbidden under federal tax law.

 

Said AU's Lynn, "Robertson will never give up his dream of forging churches into a partisan political machine. If that dream ever comes true, it will be a nightmare for America. Both religion and government are harmed when the two are recklessly mixed."

 

 

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