The boundaries between religion and government rarely have seen the level of threat they face during this election season. Candidates on both sides of the aisle have used religion inappropriately as a political tool, and now, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is preparing to launch a direct attack on religious liberty by encouraging clergy to violate the safeguards that have protected religion in America for generations.
The ADF is asking clergy to endorse candidates from the pulpit and purposefully violate their tax-exempt status in order to force a court case. This is a very real threat to religious freedom given the current Supreme Court’s willingness to set aside precedent in favor of weakening the separation of church and state. Last year’s decision in Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation, in which the court eroded taxpayers’ standing to sue over government spending that violates the separation of church and state, should serve as an early indicator of the Court’s direction not just on clergy endorsements, but also on sound science and reproductive rights – issues at the heart of religious liberty.
In response, the alliance is calling on clergy to sign a pledge :
To educate members of our congregation about how our faith relates to issues of the day.
To refrain from endorsing any candidate, either explicitly or implicitly, in or on behalf of our house of worship.
To prevent partisan speech from candidates or their surrogates, as well as the distribution of partisan materials, in our house of worship.
To resist using or soliciting the resources of our house of worship for the exclusive benefit of any candidate or party.
To respect candidates whose religious beliefs are different from my own, and stand against the use of religion to divide our communities.
To encourage members of our congregation to take an active role in civic life, including casting informed votes.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Bishop John Bryson Chane and Bishop Carolyn Tanner Irish are among those who have signed the pledge.