Sunday, September 17, 2006

Taking Back Kansas: Ministers condemn Phill Kline's church-based fundraising as idolatry

By Diane Silver

Saying that Attorney General Phill Kline should be ashamed, an organization of Kansas clergy has declared that his plan to press congregations for political donations breaks both secular and religious law.

In a statement issued this weekend, Mainstream Voices of Faith reacted to a memo that detailed Kline's plan to appear in church pulpits and then press congregations for cash for his re-election campaign. The statement said (with added emphasis from me):
We, the undersigned clergy persons and religious leaders, are incensed by the recent memorandum that was leaked from Attorney General Phill Kline's office...

It is evident that in his quest to garner contributions and votes from conservative, evangelical, and fundamentalist congregations, Kline has asked churches to walk dangerously close to the line drawn by the Internal Revenue Service that prohibits nonprofit organizations from supporting political candidates. In fact, Kline has asked them to cross that line...

Does not asking pastors to identify the five members of their congregations with the deepest pockets and assembling groups of lay people to be campaign workers constitute a blatant violation of IRS Code Section 501(c)3? The Attorney General of the State of Kansas, of all people, should know better.
The ministers said they were also furious that the in-church political activities of Kline and others on the Religious Right make "a mockery of our churches."

The statement noted:
Shame on Phill Kline for exploiting communities of faith for political gains. His modus operandi is apparent when one compares the image of the incumbent who altruistically seeks to convey his faith story (albeit with congregations comprised of parishioners more likely to agree with his political stances) with the image of the candidate who cautions his staff that, once he shares the Good News, to "Get me out . . .I am spending too long at these events."

Regardless of which side of the aisle one worships God from, dressing a political campaign in the wool of Christian witness makes a mockery of our churches and a charade of our political system. It may mask the identity of the wolf beneath, but its howl is quite distinguishable.
The ministers called on Christians to "not be deceived by those who seek your endorsement under the guise of spiritual righteousness, but lull you into idolatry."
Their hands may be on The Bible when they stand in your pulpits, but their eyes are focused solely on the polls.
Among those signing the statement is the Rev.John Tamilio, minister of Colonial Church in Prairie Village and co-chair of the Mainstream Voices of Faith steering committee.

Other ministers and religious leaders can sign the statement by visiting the organization's web site.

Mainstream Voices of Faith is a program of the MAINstream Coalition.

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