Barry, the examples you cited show precisely why the IRS gag rule should be repealed. When the IRS investigates pro-life churches who speak out in defense of the unborn during the election season, it has a chilling effect on other churches. The line between issue advocacy and electioneering is not clear cut, and the uncertainty often leads to self-censorship.
For example, the response by the Paterson, N.J. Diocese that you linked to states:
“The characterization that Bishop Serratelli’s column intervened in the election process is inaccurate. His October 9 column was not directed to the upcoming presidential election, but was rather totally focused on the Freedom of Choice Act and the harm it would do to the nation if it were to be signed into law. It’s absolutely, positively misleading to say that the bishop urged Catholics not to vote for Sen. Obama. All the bishop did was to point out that in a speech before the Planned Parenthood Action Fund last year, Sen. Obama made the promise that the first thing he would do as President would be to sign the Freedom of Choice Act.”
It sounds like the Bishop was simply following a moral duty to speak out against the Freedom of Choice Act, an unprecedented pro-abortion bill that leading Democrats have vowed to pursue if a Democrat becomes President. Churches that hear about complaints being filed against the Paterson, N.J. Diocese may be more hesitant to address the evil of abortion from their pulpits.
In the New Mexico example you cited, the message conveyed by the similing baby photo and the aborted fetus photo above candidate names is ambiguous at best. The church was not telling people which candidates to vote for, and people who are strongly pro-life or pro-abortion are not going to change their mind after viewing the photos. If someone sees the photos and decides to vote for pro-life candidates as a result, it is because of their conscience, not the church.
Congress needs to repeal the IRS gag rule to restore complete freedom of speech to pastors. Pastors that do not wish to discuss moral or policy issues are not required to do so, but those that want to speak out should be free to do so without a cloud of possible IRS investigation hanging over them.
On the issue of preserving traditional marriage in California, I’m disappointed that you’ve resorted to labeling Pastor Rick Warren and the millions of Americans who support traditional marriage as “anti-gay,” “raising high the homophobia rooftop,” and holding a “bitter fear of others.” Not to get into theology, but since you mentioned what the Bible says about marriage, it certainly says nothing that would support anything other than marriage as between one man and one woman.
The reality is that religious leaders–both conservative and liberal–are speaking out on Proposition 8. Both sides consider this an important issue and there’s nothing wrong with a vibrant discussion that involves differing viewpoints. For every Rick Warren, there’s a liberal religious leader (or two) in California who claims that the Bible supports same sex “marriage.” The polls remain close, and “[l]eaders on both sides say they sense that the election will be close and that Proposition 8 could well pass.”
At least California voters have a chance to decide this issue for themselves once and for all rather than having judges decide for them.