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House to Consider Church Endorsements of Political Candidates

The U.S. House will consider a bill that would allow churches to endorse political candidates and use funds to support election campaigns. The Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act, sponsored by Rep. Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R-NC), is backed by several reactionary religious groups, including James Dobson’s Focus on the Family and the Florida based Coral Ridge Ministries. D. James Kennedy, head of Coral Ridge Ministries, has stated that he wants to “reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost” and has opposed the separation of church and state, calling it “diabolical.”

Currently, church leaders may lawfully speak on political issues during church services. Jones’s bill, however, would permit churches to distribute campaign materials and give money directly to political candidates. Barry Lynn, head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, warned that if passed, the legislation would “open a gigantic new loophole for funding candidates without public scrutiny.”

The Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act is pending in the House Ways and Means Committee and may be considered in April.

Sources:

Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act; Washington Post, 2/17/02; Americans United for Separation of Church and State Press Release, 2/13/02

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