WASHINGTON -- May 6 -- Following the report that nine members of the East Waynesville Baptist Church in western North Carolina were excommunicated because they did not support President Bush in the election, Ralph G. Neas, President of People For the American Way Foundation, had the following statement:
What have we come to when the doors of a church are closed to longtime members because of their political beliefs? When a pastor equates political support for the wrong candidate with a sin before God?
I would say to Senator Frist and Karl Rove that this is what comes of attempts to manipulate religion for political gain. Americans simply will not accept the claim that unless you accept my political beliefs, you cannot be a good Christian.
This nation was founded on respect for religious belief, and tolerance for religious diversity. Men and women of faith have every right to advocate for their political beliefs. While churches, of course, can set their own membership standards, no one should punish people of faith for their political beliefs.
This is terribly sad. I urge the President to express his opposition to all attempts to manipulate faith for political gain.