A Greater Danger

The Kerry campaign is up in arms about Bush-Cheney ’04 efforts to woo churchgoers. A recent missive from the Bush campaign enjoins church members to promote Bush’s re-election among their fellow members:

The Bush-Cheney reelection campaign has sent a detailed plan of action to religious volunteers across the country asking them to turn over church directories to the campaign, distribute issue guides in their churches and persuade their pastors to hold voter registration drives.

Campaign officials said the instructions are part of an accelerating effort to mobilize President Bush’s base of religious supporters. They said the suggested activities are intended to help churchgoers rally support for Bush without violating tax rules that prohibit churches from engaging in partisan activity.

“We strongly believe that our religious outreach program is well within the framework of the law,” said Terry Holt, spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign.

Why is the Kerry campaign upset? Aside from the fact that the churchgoers won’t be promoting their own candidate, the Kerry campaign is worried that churches might lose their tax-exempt status:

But tax experts said the campaign is walking a fine line between permissible activity by individual congregants and impermissible activity by congregations. Supporters of Sen. John F. Kerry (Mass.), the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, charged that the Bush-Cheney campaign is luring churches into risking their tax status.

“I think it is sinful of them to encourage pastors and churches to engage in partisan political activity and run the risk of losing their tax-exempt status,” said Steve Rosenthal, chief executive officer of America Coming Together, a group working to defeat Bush.

While it is awfully kind of the Kerry folks to worry about Churches losing their tax exempt status, I see a greater danger here. As an ardent Republican and Bush supporter, I think that the BC’04 campaign should back off a bit in the interest of not making churches into a political arena.

As I’ve written recently, I believe that churches have a right and should speak to political issues. Sunday worship services, however, should remain directed toward a greater end and a greater kingdom rather than be turned into a campaign rally or “Rock the Vote” session. Pastors’ primary roles should be that of preaching the word of God, not holding voter-registration drives or “citizenship Sundays.” Besides, if the word of God is preached clearly, key positions of the Kerry campaign (abortion and gay marriage, to name two) will be reputiated by a much higher authority than BC’04 ever will elect.

Let me make it clear that I am not against encouraging others to vote for Bush—even fellow church members. But the Bush campaign should be careful not to distract some of its key voters from the worship of God.