Friday, October 17, 2008

Tennessean slips in bias

Does the Tennessean headline below the fold and the bold ELECTION 2008 banner this morning read to anyone else as though churches are sneakily violating the law and the IRS isn't paying attention? The headline reads "Churches' voter guides slip past IRS ban". There's no slippin' here. These voter guides are entirely within the rights of these churches etc. to make available to their congregants.

I'm looking at the list of just early voting sites and of the 13 available this season 4 are churches. It's impossible to conduct elections in this county without church facilities. Instead of congratulating these religious entities for empowering their membership and creating informed voters this appears to me as an attempt by the Tennessean to slip in their own religious bias. Seems so wrong to commandeer their buildings and then muzzle them during the political debate.


N.S. Allen said...


The headline points out that these voter guides aren't in violation of the IRS ban, while also noting that they're definitely very close to the border of what tax-exempt religious institutions can and cannot do. A voter guide, depending on its content, can be perfectly within the limits; it could just as easily be completely outside of them. The headline just reflects that on-the-border status. It would be biased to call them perfectly legal, just as it would be biased to call them illegal.

Beyond that, the article doesn't suggest any of the shady overtones you're reading into the headline. Plus, given that it talks about the issue from the perspectives of multiple denominations and relgiions, what bias is it that's factoring in, here? Is the Tennessean secretly anti-Protestant, anti-Catholic, and anti-Muslim, and I just never heard?

I think you're kind of letting your trigger finger for bias run wild, here.

din819go said...

hmmm...if this is something churches can do then when do they lose their tax-exempt status and start paying their fair share of taxes? we need all the property tax revenue we can get --

this is just wrong and has been wrong for decades...yet churches keep getting away from it --

geez -- sheeple

Kay Brooks said...

Linking political discussion with tax exempt status is what's really wrong here. Why should anyone's free speech be limited in exchange for tax-exempt status? If the entity is operating 'for the public good' shouldn't a demonstration of that service to the community (Room at the Inn, soup kitchens, hosting voting machines) be sufficient evidence? Why should declaring support for a candidate or a law be the litmus test?

It's a useful tool to muzzle some segments of the faith community.

A bigger part of the problem is the uneven way this is handled. Why can churches like Trinity United host pro-Obama testimony on their website (deleted when the new pastor came on board) but these churches are suspect because they pass out sanitized voter guides?

N.S. Allen said...

First of all, the tax-exemption for religious institutions doesn't have anything to do with community service, commendable though that service is. A church that comes together every Sunday to pray but doesn't do a thing for the community could get tax-exemption just as easily as one that does extensive community service, because religious and charitable groups are separately exempted, within the tax code.

The real problem with religious institutions endorsing or opposing a candidate isn't that it somehow contradicts their (possible) contribution to the community. Rather, it's an issue of protecting the interests of both church and state.

The benefit that religious institutions derive from tax exemption is, of course, obvious. Indeed, without clear, legal protection from taxation, it's easy to envision religious institutions suffering heavily, as they tried to keep up both with the costs of their own activities and the weight of taxation.

The reciprocal benefit that the government and the public-at-large derive from this set-up is found in the limitations on these exemptions. If Politician X is able to go to the congregations of three or four like-minded denominations and build up a powerful, political base simply on their endorsement, then when and if he gets into office, he has a serious conflict of interest, when it comes to questions of religious freedom. If one of the denominations that supported him comes to him wanting some sort of special treatment, he then has a personal interest in granting said favor and a constitutional interest in refusing it.

And, needless to say, it's in the best interest of the country as a whole to avoid systems in which such conflicts of interest present themselves in the minds of our leaders. So, the government does good by the religious institutions by protecting them from taxation, and, in exchange, the institutions do good by the government, by protecting it (and all of us) from those potential conflicts.

And the best part is that, contrary to what you suggest, nobody's free speech rights suffer. If every single person in a congregation backs, say, McCain, every single person in that congregation is free to go out into the community and do just that. They're free to say that their religious beliefs lead them to support McCain. They can form a community group and call it "Denomination X for McCain."

They simply can't try to make their church or temple or mosque or whatever else do that for them, unless they're willing to give up their tax-exempt status. That's a simple trade off between church and state, and it's one that we all benefit greatly from.

(As to uneven handling of these regulations, the simple fact is that, if such an imbalance exists, it's wrong and should be gotten rid of. Obviously, since I can't refer to the example that you're talking about, I can't actually decide whether what Trinity was doing was over the line. But, even if it was, poor enforcement of a good law doesn't make the law bad. It just means that we need to get some better enforcers.)

Eric H said...

A few points:

1) There is only one Church.

2) Institutional "churches" being tax exempt goes back to the Roman empire and the government-assigned bishops who were assigned territories and paid no taxes, but this did not exist prior to government, state-sponsored religion (bishops or tax exemptions).

3) 501c3 "churches" are a lot like virtual charter schools selling themselves as homeschooling. Register with the government to get your "free" computer (tax exemption), means abide by government curriculum requirements (speech codes that absolutely join the church and state).

You already know the way to obtain true freedom.

William said...

Considering Palin is a confirmed Christian Dominionist, and just a few years ago stood in front of a congregation while a visiting pastor laid hands upon her and prayed for her political success, her financial success, and for religion to "invade all aspects of society", I think we know what we're dealing with here.
video here.

BTW... in the same sermon, Palin receives 'protection from witchcraft' from this avowed Kenyan witch hunter.

We've all heard about Rev. Wright and Obama's repudiation of his anti-American statements. By contrast, Palin has credited this pastor with her success.

Now tell me this: what would conservatives be saying about Obama if he stood in front of a congregation 3 yrs ago and was prayed upon by a Kenyan with hunter whom he credited for his success? If that happened, this election would be over.

Kay Brooks said...

You're comparing 20 years of sitting under Wright's pastorate, being married by him, having your children baptized by him to a visiting pastor's one time prayer??????

You allege she's a Christian Dominist but that's more serious than a man who asks God to damn America? More serious than Obama's relationship with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers who wants to take the US down? More serious than his sweetheart mortgage thanks to Tony Rezko? More serious than accepting the second largest amount of campaign donations from Fannie & Freddie---two organizations that are at the base of the current economic house of cards???? More serious than Obama's unwillingness to come clean about his birth and college time?

This is all you've got? Some pastor and a one time prayer????

William said...

OK, let's talk about the Alaska Independnce Party, AIP extremists Mark Chryson and Steve Stoll who helped launch Palin’s political career in Alaska, and in return had influence over policy. AIP founder Joe Vogler that received support from IRAN. Let's talk about Palin the socialist who redistributed the wealth in Alaska - took the oil profits, imposed a tax and kicked it back to Alaskans.

Kay, you're an educator. Look at the educational resumes:

Occidental College - Two years.
Columbia University - B.A. political science with a specialization in international relations.
Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude, President of Harvard Law Review

Biden :
University of Delaware - B.A. in history and B.A. in political science.
Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)


United States Naval Academy - Class rank 894 out of 899 (bottom 1%)

Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in journalism

6 years and 5 colleges to complete a bachelors degree

Please, give us an educator's honest evaluation and comparison of these resumes.

William said...

And yes, being a Christian Domionist is far more serious than a man who asks God to damn America. Christian Dominionism violates the US Constitution, damning America ... well that's just an opinion.

Again... Obama repudiated these comments. Palin praised and credited the witch hunter pastor who called for a dominionist agenda.

Also, Palin's Wasilla pastor spoke of the "end times" and Alaska as a refuge for America. Palin is quoted as saying she thinks she will see Jesus return in her lifetime.

Sorry, I'm just not comfortable with someone like that with their finger on the trigger of the US nuclear arsenal, particularly since she mentioned going to war with Russia over Georgia. Maybe we can find someone whose had a passport longer than one year, and maybe can pronounce the word Iraq (she says Eye-rack), and maybe even know what the job of VP might entail.

Polls show the majority of Americans feel her unqualified. You apparently disagree?

Kay Brooks said...

And what was Obama's class rank at Columbia? He was editor of the law review...let's see his body of writing for the review.

894 at the Naval Academy isn't anything to pooh, pooh. You seriously think it's not more rigorous than Occidental College or Columbia?

Is ABC's Jake Tapper a 'non-partisan' source and good enough for you? He says she wasn't an AIP member: AIP incorrectly says Palin a member. Mayors and governors meet, greet and welcome all sorts of folks to their towns and states. None of that compares with Obama's neighbor/domestic terrorists Mr. & Mrs. Bill Ayers.

And it's sneaky to cut off the resume's at college graduation. Let's throw in life afterward.

Let's see evidence that Obama's successfully run anything. His partnership with Ayers spent plenty of money but didn't improve the education of Chicago children.

Yes, Palin, as GOVERNOR wrestled money out of big oil and shared the wealth with her constituents. She, apparently, has already done what Obama told Joe the plumber he wanted to do.

And remember....your man isn't running against Palin. McCain is the top of the ticket.

William said...

The Alaska Independence Party, inconveniently for Palin, the very same secessionist party that her husband, Todd, belonged to for seven years and that she sent a shout-out to as Alaska governor earlier this year: “Keep up the good work,” Palin told AIP members. “And God bless you.”

Kay says: "894 [out of 899] at the Naval Academy isn't anything to pooh, pooh."

HAHAHAHA !!!!! What a joke.