We have learned this election season of the many ways money flows into political campaigns from all corners of the Country. Now we have one more place to look for funds: the church collection plate.
There are legal niceties that politically involved churches should observe. A church’s collection money cannot be used to support candidates in partisan elections without jeopardizing the church’s 501c3 tax exempt status (denying a candidate communion is acceptable, but explicitly endorsing his opponent is not). Mentioning a candidate by name in the Sunday service before an election is risky unless it is part of the routine (e.g. rote prayers for the President of the United States in a book of common prayer). Church money, however, can be used to support ballot initiatives and “get out the vote” drives for ballot initiatives because ballot initiatives are about laws not candidates. And never mind that this effort also benefits candidates who support the ballot initiatives.
Here in Minnesota, several churches across the state have taken up a second collection to raise funds to support the campaign for a constitutional amendment prohibiting same sex marriage.
Money is also pouring into Minnesota from out-of-state religious organizations that support the Amendment. There are Christian and Jewish denominations on the other side of the issue, but for whatever reason they have been slow to respond. Most have stuck to the old fashioned notion that church and synagogue is about preaching and prayer, not politics.
So perhaps it is time for everybody -- whether Republican, Democrat or Independent -- to support their favorite political cause at their house of worship. Until somebody shows up to kick political fundraisers and other money changers out of the temple, a religious 501c3 is just about as good as any other organization for throwing money at our electoral process.
Pass the plate please . . . .
Update 10/7/2012: According to the Star Tribune one denomination alone spent over $650,000 to urge passage of the "marriage amendment":