Crossposted on Standing at the Intersection of Church and State
As a Christian, a political liberal, and a gay man, I often find myself chagrined when leaders claiming to speak for one group I am part of say something negative about another group that I am part of. That is part of why the Manhattan Declaration is so disturbing. The full document is set to be released at noon today, but excerpts and commentary have been popping up around the blogosphere ahead of the release.
The document is signed by multiple Catholic bishops; James Dobson, founder of Focus on the
Anus Family; the president of the National Assoc. of Evangelicals; and various seminary leaders, pastors and professors. In it, the signers are stating their continued opposition to abortion, stem-cell research, same-sex marriage, and anti-discrimination statutes, among other issues.
My take after the jump
The signers are entitled to their opinion, as far as it goes. I could join with a group of progressive, gay Christians and issue a similar manifesto explaining my position as well. The issue I have is that these groups do not limit their activity on these issues to making statements and trying to influence their parishioners privately. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and that allegedly-cultic fundamentalist Washington DC group the Family, have overstepped the line of church-state separation, however, with the introduction of the 'Stupak Amendment' to the Healthcare Reform Bill that was passed in the House. Allegedly, during the drafting of the bill, Stupak and Pitts met with the Bishops multiple times, not only to get consultation on the law, but to verify that the amendment language was 'approved'.
While influencing laws like this is acceptable for lobbyists and political action committees(Don't get me started on whether laws written in this method benefit the 'little guy' or the industry the lobbyist represents….that's another post), but when a tax-exempt entity associated with a religious institution does it, I think it violates that line. If the USCCB is going to act as a PAC, then it should be subject to the same tax laws as a PAC.
Similarly, I think the actions of the diocese of Portland, Maine relating to the recent Ballot Question 1 vote need to be investigated as well. I have no problem with Richard Malone, as a private citizen, donating money from his private bank account and or writing letters to his elected representatives in whatever government. What I do object to is him participating in these political actions as Bishop of Portland, speaking as the 'Voice of the Church'.
I have no problem with any religious organization privately trying to influence its members to vote a particular way on a particular issue when it is things like expressing their teachings on abortion or homosexuality. But when they try to directly influence the law that is another matter.