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Should Political Campaigns Distribute Voter Guides in Churches?

By Voices
Sunday, September 5, 2004; Page C11

Church and other places of worship are inappropriate venues for advocacy of political candidates. Religious leaders can and should talk about issues, but tying them to candidates and asking their parishioners to vote for them is borderline criminal.

Political candidates shouldn't be telling their supporters to be Catholic or Jewish, and religion shouldn't be telling its followers to be Democrats or Republicans. Claiming to know that God would vote for someone is something from a comic strip. Who do these people think they are? Miss Cleo?

_____On Faith_____
Channeling God at the Video Cafe (The Washington Post, Sep 5, 2004)
REVELATIONS (The Washington Post, Sep 5, 2004)
More Voices: Campaigning in Churches (washingtonpost.com, Sep 5, 2004)
A Sacred Sound May Fall Silent (The Washington Post, Aug 1, 2004)
Previous Issues
_____Religion News_____
Channeling God at the Video Cafe (The Washington Post, Sep 5, 2004)
REVELATIONS (The Washington Post, Sep 5, 2004)
More Voices: Campaigning in Churches (washingtonpost.com, Sep 5, 2004)
At Teen Magazine, Faith Is in Fashion (The Washington Post, Sep 4, 2004)
In Congress, Religion Drives Divide (The Washington Post, Aug 28, 2004)
More Religion Stories

Manipulating faith and using religious positions to stump for candidates is something that belongs outside of the church. Do it on your own time, not on God's time. What's next? Billboard ads on the pews? Official candy bars of Jesus?

-- Jordan Traister, Atlanta

You bet it is all right for churches to provide voter guides! A voter guide is only a comparison of candidates' records. This is simply another ploy for the liberals to try to silence the free speech of conservatives and Republicans.

This faux issue is blatant hypocrisy on the part of Democrats, who use liberal church pews for their own election purposes. The current efforts by the Democrats to spy on conservative churches to try to take away their tax-exempt status is odd since they don't seem to mind when liberal churches invite presidential candidates to speak in their pulpits.

Yet another example of the hidden totalitarianism of the left.

-- Terri Endicott, Washington

When I go to church, I go for spiritual renewal and the warmth of being with others who are trying to live a Christian life.

For me, the most important aspect of that life is to give to others and work for social justice. Although I am very active on different political issues, I don't think that proselytizing during the service is a helpful thing to congregants. We need to have time for rituals that ground us spiritually. And I would be very upset if the church directory was made available to political groups. Politics and religion rarely mix well, and there is plenty of history to prove that Christianity has made many mistakes in this area.

-- Jeanne Marklin, Silver Spring

A house of worship is not a street corner for the distribution of political literature in whatever guise, nor should a church's list of parishioners be made available to partisan political solicitors. Such practices not only threaten the tax-exempt status of churches as well as mischievously toy with the issue of church-state separation, but they also promote congregational divisions, thus threatening the sanctity and integrity of religion.

-- Fern B. True, Fairfax

Only guides that have the same questions for all candidates and their answers, much like those published by the League of Women Voters and news Web sites -- without instructions about how to vote and implied moral policy -- should be allowed. Churches should not tell us how to vote from the pulpit, and political campaigners should not be allowed on church property (or even property used for church services that is owned by other organizations) during church hours.

-- Theresa M. Brion, Lexington, Va.

My denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), was founded in 1787 on the principles of self-determination. The earliest civil and voting rights meetings were held at AME churches, and the first African National Congress meeting was held at an AME church in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Indeed, churches ought to support candidates and issues that are aligned with their Christian faith and beliefs. Moreover, pastors are duty-bound to encourage and ensure that congregations are registered to vote. In AME churches throughout the world, pastors are required to complete an annual report to the bishop, and one key question is: What percentage of your congregation are registered voters? Political materials should be made available to congregations, though not distributed during worship service; and candidates can be allowed to "greet" the congregation.

-- Roslyn Stewart Christian, Washington

Next month's question: Do you approve of the use of video sermons during worship services? E-mail your answer (100 words or less) to voices@washpost.com. Include a daytime phone number. For more answers to today's question, go to www.washingtonpost.com/religion.


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