Letter to the Editor

Separation of church and state ... really?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In 1802, a document written by Thomas Jefferson, regarding interpretation of the first amendment, it stated that the United States legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building " a wall of separation" between church and state."

Jefferson's choice of words "wall of separation" has been referred to several times in U.S. Supreme Court decisions. One of the benefits garnered by organized churches has been relief of the burden of taxation. However, part of the deal was that the church would not use its influence to establish political advantage by helping to elect candidates that would further their particular interests and beliefs.

Enter, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a religion-based, hard-right lobbying group promoting Oct. 7 Pulpit Freedom Sunday, urging conservative preachers to openly defy the IRS's 1954 ban on church endorsement of political candidates.

This year, a record 1,470 pastors from all 50 states took up the challenge, many openly endorsing specific candidates from the pulpit. Some even went so far as to send the IRS a written and recorded copy of their sermon. So what did the IRS do? NOTHING!

On Nov. 14, the left-leaning Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a suit in federal court designed to force the IRS's hand. Included in the brief is a clause directing the IRS to discontinue "a policy of non-enforcement of the electioneering restrictions against churches and religious organizations."

If the case comes to the U.S. Supreme Court, will they maintain "the wall of separation?"

Robert Sneitzer

Spirit Lake