Hildebrand to Churches: "We're watching what you say on HB 1215"
ADF: "Bring it"

In a couple of different articles today in the Rapid City Journal, abortion opponents are lining up to try to tell churches what they can or cannot say from the pulpit. And it's not necessarily clear if the Churches are going to take it lying down. From the first article:
Steve Hildebrand, a pro-choice political consultant who opposes HB1215, said all nonprofit organizations, including churches, must be careful about their roles in politics and campaigns. That is especially true this year, when watchdogs on both ends of the political spectrum are paying close attention to violations by their opponents.

"We have our eyes wide open. All of us are paying very close attention, and our opponents are watching very carefully, too," he said.

Hildebrand said pastors are free to tell their congregations what their church's position is on abortion, but they might be in violation of IRS rules if they use church funds to tell people how to vote on the referendum.

"If they say, 'Vote for HB1215 or vote against HB1215,' that is questionable," he said.

Federal law is clear about candidates in churches but less clear about political advocacy of issues in churches.

According to the IRS, charities, including churches, are not allowed to "participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements) any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office."

But churches and other charitable organizations may take positions on public policy issues, including issues that divide candidates in an election for public office, such as HB1215 does. However, those organizations must avoid any issue advocacy that functions as political campaign intervention among candidates.

When issues such as HB1215 are used in churches to distinguish between candidates for a given office, that could potentially be a violation of IRS law. Even if a statement does not expressly tell an audience to vote for or against a specific candidate, an organization delivering the statement is at risk of violating the political campaign intervention prohibition if there is any message favoring or opposing a candidate, according to an IRS news release.
Read it all here. But just hold your horsies here for just a second... There's another group out there that doesn't necessarily agree with Hildebrand. While he's doing some watching, the Alliance Defense Fund is telling churches that they're ok. And the ADF is willing to defend it. From the second article:
An attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund — a national, legal consortium that works to advance conservative Christian values in the public sphere — will be in Rapid City on Thursday, July 20, at noon at the La Crosse Street Perkins restaurant, to encourage pastors such as Blanc to advocate for HB1215. The briefing also will educate pastors about exactly what they can and can’t say from the pulpit about election issues without jeopardizing their church’s tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service.

At the luncheon and briefing, sponsored by the South Dakota Family Policy Council, legal consortium staff members will offer legal advice to churches on safeguarding their tax-exempt status when dealing with political issues from the pulpit, according to Robert Regier, executive director of the Family Policy Council.

“Most of our work on the abortion bill will be with and in the churches — mobilizing them, and getting them out to vote,” Regier said.

The Rapid City luncheon is one of seven pastor meetings around the state sponsored by the South Dakota Family Policy Council. Through its Witherspoon Pastor Network, the council offers information, education and other resources, including print and video materials, to churches about the abortion referendum and other issues.

In June, the IRS warned churches nationwide about engaging in political activity that would threaten their nonprofit 501(c)(3) designation. But the legal group advises pastors that they have more freedom for political speech within IRS regulations than they might realize, Regier said.

The legal group has pledged to assist any South Dakota church that is subject to an IRS investigation because of HB1215, he said.
Read it all here. And just so you can see it, here's what the ADF are telling churches about what they can or cannot say, and that the ADF has their back:

Never a dull moment in South Dakota politics. And this battle will only intensify by this fall.

Comments

Bob Ellis said…
Churches are definitely NOT going to take it lying down. The South Dakota Family Policy Council is going to be out this week making sure churches aren't fooled by this intimidation.

If a church isn't willing to speak to moral issues in our society, then they're worthless. They're just a social club of people people who own Bibles but won't do what it says.
Haggs said…
Whether or not the IRS will get involved, I think what ADF is doing is wrong. They are working under the assumption that ALL Christians support this extreme abortion ban. That's not true. As I was collecting signatures, I'd say most of the people who signed it were Christians.

The reason it's bad for a preacher to tell his/her congregation what legislation they can vote for, is that not everyone in the congregation believes the same things as that preacher. Is there any congregation that completely agrees on political issues?

If my pastor started telling me I should vote for the abortion ban, I would walk out. Church is a place for faith, not politics.

ADF shouldn't be telling congregations that everyone has to believe the same exact thing.
Haggs said…
Mr. Ellis,

You must have a low opinion of churches. You claim a church is just a "social club" if it's not preaching your position on moral issues. I was always taught that church is God's House. We should be focused on worshiping Him, and not telling people what to believe on political issues.

Church is about faith, not politics.
Bob Ellis said…
I have a low opinion of churches who don't have the guts to call something that is wrong "wrong."

The Left loves to try to nullify moral issues by calling them "politics." Not all of us are fooled by that, though.

God says we are to let our light shine to the world, and to be the salt and light of the world. That means calling something wrong when it's wrong.

Right and wrong aren't subject to opinion polls. And people can't know when they're doing something wrong if the primary moral authority in our world--the church--is afraid of upsetting somebody and won't say when something's wrong. And faith without works is dead.
Anonymous said…
Bob Ellis, you seem like a pretty smart feller. So tell me ... how old is the Earth? I know this is a little off topic, but I figured if anyone knows, it must be you. Thanks in advance.
lexrex said…
abortion is so much more than a political issue. it's a Ten Commandments issue. either the Commandment not to murder is true or it is not. for a church to bow out on that issue is a derilection of duty.

and hildebrand couldn't be more wrong about a church taking a position on a ballot issue.

this is from hilde's very own "americans united for the separation of church and state":

"... The free speech rights of religious leaders are already broadly protected by the U.S. Constitution. Clergy can and do address public policy concerns, ranging from abortion, gay rights and gun control to poverty, civil rights and the death penalty. They may support legislation pending in Congress or the state legislatures, or call for its defeat. They may endorse or oppose ballot referenda. Indeed, discussion of public issues is a common practice in religious institutions all over America." (http://www.au.org/site/PageServer?pagename=resources_brochure_partisanpolitics)
Haggs said…
Bob,

And the radical Right likes to assume that they are the only ones who are moral. But there are moral people on both sides. Just because someone disagrees with you on abortion or gay marriage or whatever doesn't mean that they are not your brother or sister in Christ.

I'm a dirty, heathen Lurhteran, so I place more importance on God's Grace than on works. And I agree that faith without works isn't much of a faith at all. But I also don't think you should be using faith to scare people into agreeing with your position. It's disrespectful of God's love.

You can believe abortion is wrong, but don't use faith to tell people they should agree with you.
george said…
PP,
does this mean you will rant about ADF since they are out-of-staters? if the ADF gives (free)legal support to churches, wouldn't that be akin to an outsider coming into SD and telling us what we should do?
mhs said…
P, Churches should be aware that groups like the ADF have their own agendas to pursue, not necessarily those of any one congregation. Whether right-wing like ADF or left-wing like the ACLU, they're always looking for a test case to litigate and do not provide substantive legal adive.

As a tax lawyer that specializes in non-profit agencies, I can tell you definitively that the law is far more convoluted that the ADF's letter implies with very little case law directly on point.

Their letter should be taken as a policy position, not legal advice. Churches would be well served to consult their own counsel.
PP said…
George, which side doesn't have people from out of state on this one?

And MHS - excellent advice that churches should take their letter "as a policy position, not legal advice. Churches would be well served to consult their own counsel."
lexrex said…
as with all legal advice, mhs, alliance defense fund is only stating what they believe is defensible. of course any court could disagree.

but what adf is arguing is what just about any other liberal, conservative, or otherwise legal outfit argues.

churches have never had their tax-exempt status revoked because of their lobbying activities, even when lobbying for the defeat or passage of a ballot initiative.

that's pretty strong evidence that adf and americans united for the separation of church and state are correct.
lexrex said…
but you are correct, mhs, churches should seek their own legal counsel, too.
Anonymous said…
lexrex,

How many of the 10 commandments are actually "laws?" One? Two/Three? Lie and Steal kind of put a lot of GOP/God Fearing people in trouble.

This isn't as big of problem in my moderate Republican view as voter guides on actually candidates. This is just a bad law that is wasting time and expense for far too many people. Court wouldn't uphold it anyways. The average legislator who passed it hopes its defeated, what does that say?
Anonymous said…
Haggs,

I am also Lutheran. I grew up Lutheran, I was confirmed Lutheran and will probably die a Lutheran. I have been a Lutheran for so long I can even spell it correctly!!

I did note that you know so little about Lutheran core beliefs that you don’t realize that Lutheran doctrine teaches God’s Commandments, which includes the commandment “Thou Shall Not Commit Murder”. News flash - the Bible calls these the TEN COMMANDMENTS, not the “ten suggestions”. Abortion, the murder of an unborn baby, is not a political issue, it is most definitely a moral issue the same as child abuse, rape and robbery are moral issues.

Good luck with the grace thing. Without repentance of your sins, grace is not available to you and since you obviously don’t consider murder of an infant on the wrong side of the birth canal or gay marriage to be sin, good luck to you. You’re going to need all the luck you can get when you come face to face with old split-hoof in that hot climate down south.
scimitar said…
I've seen it on bumperstickers, but I haven't heard anyone talking about it. Just what would Jesus do if there had been abortions 2000 years ago?

Well of course, being the government man that Jesus was, he would have gone directly to Pontius Pilate and asked Pilate to outlaw abortion. Because it's easier to have government pass a law than to change hearts and minds one at a time, right? And Jesus was one to always take the easy way. Then when everyone follows the law, everyone automatically gets to heaven. Jesus's job is done.

But seriously, Jesus wasn't about passing laws. He was about changing hearts and minds one at a time. Jesus never told people what to do. He used parables to get people to think about what they were doing. Jesus allowed and encouraged people to make their own decisions - because it is the choices we make that determine if we're heading north or south. There's also something about repentence regardless of the choices we've made.

Being pro-choice is consistent with being a Christian. Some pastors fall into the trap of telling people what to do. Maybe they should think about what Jesus would have done, and follow his example.
K said…
Hey 12:23, maybe you should learn a little more about the Lutheran church. Obviously, there are number of Lutheran denominations. The largest, ELCA, has a very in-depth statement on abortion that says, among other things, "This church recognizes that there can be sound reasons for ending a pregnancy through induced abortion." You can read the whole thing here: http://www.elca.org/socialstatements/abortion/
Douglas said…
It may be possible, legal, and maybe even non-taxable for churches and religious propagandists to rant and rave on abortion as murder and HB 1215 as God's gift to SD, but it may not be advisable for them to do it if they value the freedoms and tax breaks they get as part of the separation of church and state deal.

The "Lutheran" split here is interesting since it tends to indicate much ofl the problems with claiming God is on your side or our side or their side.

And, those who advocate on issues should always remember the Biblical warning, "Even the Devil can quote scripture."

Picking your Devils or your Gods greatly and unnecessarily complicates and fowls political issues.
Haggs said…
Anon 12:23,

Thanks for pointing out my spelling mistake. But it doesn't prove that you're a better Lutheran than I am... it just proves that sometimes I'm too lazy to run things through spell check.

Did you have a problem with my "dirty, heathen" comment? That's just a joke I like to tell for the Catholics in the audience.

Douglas,

Very good points.
Anonymous said…
So, Bob, just how old is the earth? I thought for sure you would have told us by now.Come on man, share your knowledge. We all want to know.
Bob Ellis said…
Anonymous 9:32 and 1:44 I'm sure you know my answer to the age of the Earth, or you wouldn't be trying to bait me with repeated questions.

Why don't you try to stay on topic...or are you ill-equipped to join the debate?
SkolVikings said…
This is great news for South Dakota churches. The pro-abortion advocates have tried to bully churches to stay silent, but we can praise the Lord that this tactic will not work.

South Dakota Loves Live
Anonymous said…
maybe it's time for Steve Hildebrand to come clean about his real, ahem, agenda, if you know what i mean....people know why he hates churches so much
Anonymous said…
When Rev. King preached from the pulpits for social and yes POLTIICAL and LEGAL change in the South, did the Left cry out for separation of church and state? Or threaten his church with revocation of its tax exempt status?

No, of course not.

When Catholic bishops outright excommunicated those in the South who refused to desegregate, did the left scream?

No, of course not.

When the Catholic bishops have issued letters and directives that are pro-welfare, anti-death penalty and the like, did I hear the liberals scream that it violated the 1st Amendment?

No, of course not.

When Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton and the like run for political office over and over, did those of the leftist bent hurl invictives against them daring to put their faith based beliefs into action?

No, of course not.

When Al Gore and Bill Clinton in the middle of their respective Presidential campaigns literally stand in pulpits of African American churches, did you hear the thud of the ACLU lawsuits hitting court tables across the United States?

No, of course not.

When faith and religion drive people to conclusions the secular left like politically (such as but not limited to anti-death penalty, pro-welfare) you will not hear a peep out of them. Those are "social justice" issues, they tend to say. That makes it AOK.

Yet when faith and religion drive people to conclusions the secular left DISlike politically (such as but not limited to anti-abortion) you will see the screams of the ACLU and the threats of a thousand lawsuits. "We have a separation of church and state" they tend to say. That the particular church's views happen to just run at odds to the secular liberals' is just a coincidence.
PP said…
Anon 8:52 - That's getting really, really darn close to the type of comment that you'll find deleted. Keep it on the topic, and out of people's personal lives, please.

We can argue without going there.

Thanks in advance.
Anonymous said…
great stuff #8:57,,,,,hope you dont mind if I use some of that in my ramblings. keep it up !!
RaiderNation said…
"Whether or not the IRS will get involved, I think what ADF is doing is wrong. They are working under the assumption that ALL Christians support this extreme abortion ban."

Sir, you simply have no idea what you're talking about. If you think what ADF is doing is "wrong," you must think that churches and pastors should remain in fear of IRS reprisal should they speak on important moral issues that have reached the political realm. All ADF is doing is advising these churches and pastors on what THE LAW is in order to dispel the falsehoods being spread by abortion fanatics in this campaign of fear and intimidation. ADF is not pretending to "speak for all Christians," ADF is coming to speak where they've been INVITED to speak. Why do you have such a problem with that?

I guess you think it is "wrong" for people to know their Constitutionally-protected right to free speech if those rights conflict with your worldview.

Typical.
Anonymous said…
Bob bob bob, having a problem with the age of the earth? I've heard your factual statements on that topic before. I just think that it is important that you share them with the bloggers so that we may put into context your other thoughts. Please, share.
Anonymous said…
In response to 1:44 p.m. Anonymous as to how old the earth is. You have only to go to Genesis Chap.1. The earth is just 3 days older than mankind.
Anonymous said…
Yes, the earth is three days older than mankind which makes it 5 days older than the bagel I just got at HyVee. HOW OLD IS THIS BAGEL!
Anonymous said…
Its pleasing that 12:56 p.m. Anonymous agrees that the earth as stated in Scripture is 3 days older than mankind. As to your bagel, eat it.... its good for you. You are the only one who cares how old it is.
Joe Baby said…
If a church cannot speak against abortion, what exactly then is it allowed to do? Sell donuts?

I think one of the commandments is relatively "on point" regarding abortion.

Interesting framing, however, in trying to say that abortion is "political" and thus outside what a church can discuss. So is poverty, welfare, war, taxation, criminal law, death penalty, polygamy...

...you get the point.
Anonymous said…
Life might not begin at conception.
Anonymous said…
If life begins at conception, then many women are murderers without knowing it when their normal cycle washes out a fertilized egg that has not implanted.

How can society tolerate such passive and casual murders? Let's throw every sexually active woman in prison for life. Better yet, let's give them the death penalty!! An eye for an eye.

Come on Fatty Greenfield, get with the lawmaking.
Joe Baby said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Hey Bobby Ellis gave us an answer over on the CCK blog! Here it is:

---
The Earth is, of course, only about 6,000-10,000 years old. The serious Christian (i.e. one who believes the Bible) can't believe otherwise, because the Bible makes it abundantly clear, plus the scientific evidence also points that way.

I used to believe the millions-of-years hocus pocus myself, but I didn't realize (1) the Biblical account of creation is completely incompatible with millions of years, so one of the two is wrong; (2) there are plenty of scientific theories and evidences that support a young earth and the Biblical account of creation, and (3) the massive amount of insurmountable problems with the theory of evolution--problems that even billions of years can't "solve."

...

If anyone wants to take a serious look at the evidence (which includes why a serious Christian can't believe all that millions of years mumbo jumbo), you can read http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2006/0717seven-reasons.asp for a start. Otherwise, you can remain in your ignorance.
---

Remain in our ignorance indeed...
Anonymous said…
From haggs:

"But there are moral people on both sides. Just because someone disagrees with you on abortion or gay marriage or whatever doesn't mean that they are not your brother or sister in Christ."

I follow your logic 100%. And, just because someone disagrees with you on laws against murder or polygamy doesn't mean that they are not your brother or sister in Christ. Correct? Charles Manson was probably a Bible-believing Christian when he was out on his serial killing spree. He just had a little different interpretation of right & wrong than some "Christians". But, hey, it's all good. We'll see him in heaven with all the other "brothers and sisters" who have chosen to interpret things a little differently than what's in black-and-white.

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