The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

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Joe Conn
Rob Boston
Sandhya Bathija

Americans United Commends Ohio Clergy for Opposing Pulpit Partisanship

Church-State Watchdog Group Announces New Web Site to Refute Religious Right Propaganda About Federal Tax Law


Americans United for Separation of Church and State today commended
a group of Ohio clergy for opposing pulpit-based electioneering and
unveiled a new Web site designed to counter Religious Right propaganda
about federal tax law.

The Rev. Eric Williams of North Congregational United Church of
Christ in Columbus is urging clergy all over America to give sermons on
Sept. 21 in support of church-state separation and against partisan
politics in houses of worship.

At a press conference in Columbus today, Williams and other
religious leaders also called on the Internal Revenue Service to take
action against the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) for encouraging churches
to break the law and endorse candidates. The ADF, a Religious Right
legal group based in Arizona, is urging pastors to endorse or oppose
candidates from the pulpit on Sept. 28.

Federal tax law prohibits non-profit organizations, including houses
of worship, from intervening in elections. Religious Right groups have
long sought to turn churches into cogs in their political machine, and
the ADF hopes to win court approval of pulpit politicking.

According to today's Washington Post, Williams and other clergy are asking the IRS to sanction the ADF for encouraging pastors to break the law and calling for an investigation into possible violations of ethics rules.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United,
hailed the Ohio clergy group for its strong stand against the ADF.

"I am delighted to see clergy stand up for church-state separation,"
Lynn said. "The vast majority of America's religious leaders reject
pulpit politicking, and I'm glad to see some of them speak out so
clearly and forcefully."

Continued Lynn, "Americans go to church for spiritual reasons, not
to get a list of political endorsements. The Alliance Defense Fund
ought to be ashamed of itself for attempting to drag churches into
partisan politics."

Americans United today announced the launch of a new Web site,, that will educate religious leaders and other Americans about the proper role of religion in politics.

The "Project Fair Play" Web site contains a broad array of resources
dealing with federal tax law provisions that bar pulpit politicking. It
includes several links to IRS publications, educational materials for
clergy and information about religious leaders' stands on the topic.

Interested citizens can also use to report
violations of the law to Americans United. Americans United has filed
complaints with the IRS about flagrant examples of partisan politicking
by religious groups.

Said AU's Lynn, "The Religious Right persists in misleading clergy
about federal tax law. Our new site will give religious leaders and
other interested citizens accurate information on this important topic."

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.