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Pennsylvania pastors' get-out-the-vote 'training' testing IRS rules

The IRS rules prohibit direct support or endorsement of a political party or candidate and a number of churches were cited with violating these rules in the 2004 presidential election. Jeopardizing a church’s tax-exempt status can occur in several ways, including singling out a particular candidate’s pet issues, or only inviting one candidate to speak at a forum (look at what’s happening in Ohio).

In Pennsylvania, a group of pastors have banded together, forming the Pennsylvania Pastors Network, and started up an extremely fishy get-out-the-vote training program that was recorded by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, clearly intended to help out poll-sagging Little Ricky Santorum and to push the marriage amendment effort in the state. (NYT):

The first training session, on March 6 in Valley Forge, included a videotaped message from a single candidate, Senator Rick Santorum, the Pennsylvania Republican who faces a difficult re-election fight.

“I encourage you to let your voices be heard from the pulpit” on vital issues, Mr. Santorum said, urging the pastors to champion a proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, according to a recording made by a person at the session.

…After the tape, organizers offered participating pastors copies of the senator’s book “It Takes a Family.”

Colin A. Hanna, founder of the conservative advocacy group Let Freedom Ring and master of ceremonies, called the book “thoroughly and soundly grounded in Christian doctrine and Scripture as the revealed word of God,” according to the recording.

…The Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, invoked the prophet Ezekiel, whose voice brought a field of bones to life. “You and I are standing before a field of dry bones, aren’t we?” Father Pavone told the training session. “Dead consciences. Destroyed life.”

Without mentioning Mr. Santorum or Mr. Casey, Father Pavone emphasized how important control of the Senate would be if another Supreme Court vacancy opened soon, potentially tipping the court against abortion rights.

This year, the IRS says it plans to scrutinize church political activity even more closely. Note that Bush’s IRS has been investigating the NAACP and a California church whose pastor gave a generic anti-war sermon as well, so it remains to be seen what will actually come of this — will the unfettered politicking by the wingers continue? They certainly seem bold and confident in that training session.

Jeebus, this is out of control. But wait, it gets better (or worse, depending on your perspective).

Mr. Santorum spoke on the tape for about seven minutes. A spokesman for the senator, Robert Traynham, said his statement was “generic video greetings about a public policy initiative that will be pending before the United States Senate,” referring to the debate over the proposed ban on same-sex marriage.

“You are the leaders of the flock,” Mr. Santorum told the pastors. “You have a responsibility to be informed and to inform” and “to help guide those who seek your counsel,” especially about the importance of banning same-sex marriage.

Whoa…whoa…do you all remember Robert Traynham? The out gay spokesperson for Santorum? How can this man continue to stand up there are support Man-on-Dog? Is the paycheck that good, man? If you don’t want to marry, fine, but don’t work on behalf of one of the most anti-gay politicians on the planet who wants to make you and the rest of gay folks second-class citizens. I can’t wrap my mind around the pathological level of self-loathing we’re talking about here. It treads into Vernon Robinson territory of delusion.

Rick’s clearly not your friend — he’s just a paycheck — and you can sleep like a baby at night? Damn.

Hat tip Holly.

* Man-on-dog Santorum has an out communications director
* Little Ricky’s bobbing and weaving about his gay communications director

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding