Senate Bill Turns Houses of Worship into Political Convention Halls

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(Washington, D.C.) Today Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), in an election-year appeal to the Religious Right, introduced a bill that would compromise the sanctity of religion.  The bill, S. 3957, would amend the IRS Code to allow houses of worship to endorse candidates from the pulpit and engage in partisan political activity without harming their tax-exempt status. 

“Senator Inhofe wants to turn houses of worship into political convention halls,” said Interfaith Alliance President, the Reverend Welton Gaddy.  “This bill would allow politicians to exploit the moral authority of the pulpit to advance a partisan agenda.  When religious leaders endorse candidates for office, they compromise their prophetic voice.  The very sanctity of religion is at stake in this debate,” he said.

Inhofe’s bill is similar a H.R. 235, introduced in the House by Representative Walter Jones (R-NC).  At last weekend’s Family Research Council’s Values Voter Summit in Washington, Senator Inhofe spoke in favor of the Jones bill and promised action on the Senate floor before Congress adjourned to home for the November elections.  The Interfaith Alliance has been successful in bottling up the Jones bill through the dedicated grassroots efforts of its 185,000 members.

In addition to endorsements of candidates, Inhofe’s bill would also allow houses of worship to make political contributions to candidates and political parties.

“Congress should not allow money from Sunday’s collection plates to line their campaign coffers on Monday,” said Dr. Gaddy.  “Under this bill, tax-exempt donations intended for the common good – to heal the afflicted and feed the hungry – could be used instead to curry favor with politicians,” he said.