Our fellow blogger, David Brennan, reports on NonProfit Law Prof Blog about the staged political campaign intervention by churches sponsored by the Alliance Defense Fund, at this link.
Alliance Defense Fund describes its purpose as "to aggressively defend religious liberty." What the organization means by that is described in "Defending Our First Liberty", a pdf pamphlet available on the site. It notes that the organization was founded by "35 evangelical Christian ministers" to "defend the right of people of faith to hear and speak the Truth of the Gospel," including "religious liberty, the sanctity of human life, marriage, and the traditional family."
Now, folks, if you are like me and have always thought that the "First Liberty" (i.e., the First Amendment to the Constitution) was intended to ensure that government doesn't attempt to limit the sources of information and ability to fraternize with others that is fundamental to a free and democratic society, you probably find some disjuncture between the "defending liberty" concept and the emphasis on the "culture war" icons proclaiming anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, and pro-status quo concepts of the family (no matter how unrealistic those nuclear family ideals may be). The people that espouse those ideas are pretty kean on limiting the rights of people that disagree with them on those issues, by claiming, for instance, that gay marriages somehow taint straight marriages.
But that's not what I want to focus on here. I simply don't see how a constitutional "right" to tax-exemption in support of political campaign intervention can accord with freedom from the establishment of a government-sponsored religion. Churches, of course, like anyone else, can become as involved as they wish in political campaigns. They just can't do it on your and my dimes--the foregone taxpayer monies that support churches come from Jews and liberal Christians and Muslims and atheists, none of which should be required to support an evangelical agenda to acquire more say in government. In addition, I find the religious litmus tests for high office increasingly pressed by the same right-wing evangelicals offensive. Thus, I hope that churches have the good sense to avoid directly violating the law about campaign interventions. I align with the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, an organization that describes itself as a "religious liberty watchdog group" that emphasizes the importance of separation of church and state to the preservation of religious liberty. The organization has a "don't politicize the pulpit" project and a new website, announced here, urging ministers not to participate in an effort to break down the church/state barrier through political campaigning.
David Brennan, in the post mentioned above on Nonprofit Law Prof Blog, disagrees, suggesting that a good result of this action will be a Supreme Court case clarifying the issue.