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May 7, 2005 2:46 am

Religion and Politics

Among the year's more bizarre stories, but one that probably was inevitable given the increasing fusion between religion and politics: a pastor of a rural church in North Carolina sought to expel Democrats from his congregation.
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Robert KC Johnson - 5/7/2005

I think this pastor is clearly on the fringe (although how the IRS could not look into the tax-exempt status of the church after this is beyond me). But the distance between the NC approach and that of now-Pope Benedict in the 2004 election is not terribly far. It's not out of the realm of possibility to project 5 years or so into the future and see something like this event occurring on a more widespread scale.

Adam Kotsko - 5/7/2005

I had a theology professor who advocated that all churches voluntarily renounce their tax-exempt status so that they could claim a valid place in the political debate. He is in a mainline denomination and is firmly on the left, and all the main kinds of issues that he advocated would be unequivocally "political" (social justice, environment) rather than the "moral" issues that the right is forcing into the political arena.

This would be yet another beneficial way for the religious left to shoot itself in the foot and put itself at a huge financial disadvantage to the corporate religious left.

Jonathan Dresner - 5/7/2005

...depends on a great many things.

  • Whether the IRS acts to penalize the church by revoking its tax exempt status.
  • what share of the total membership the nearly fifty members who left (9 expelled and forty in protest) constituted
  • How the remaining membership see the event
  • Whether other conservative and evangelical leaders will applaud, condemn or, more likely, equivocate,
  • Whether this is an outlier who will be firmly rejected by the body politic or a pioneer who will be imitated

I'm going to save my outrage until I have some of these answers.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/7/2005

This story's been getting a good bit of attention on the net today -- from Atrios and The Weblog, at least. It reminds me a bit of a story I heard about an Afro-Baptist congregation in Louisville. The pastor had worked out a sweetheart deal for the congregation to sign ownership of the parsonage over to him personally, but the deal had to be approved by the membership of the church in a business meeting. When the matter came to a vote, the pastor and the church clerk sat at the front table with the membership list in front of them. Whenever anyone cast a "nay" vote, the pastor struck that person's name from the membership list.

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