Prominent Christians say not voting for Romney is a sinDavid Barton, prominent leaders of the Wallbuilders organization, have apparently stepped over a rather remarkable line when it comes to both church/state separation and in Green's case, the tax exempt status for churches. According to Right Wing Watch, the pair were on Wallbuilders Live on July 19, along with Matt Barber, and said in as many words that not voting for Romney in November's election is a sin against the Christian god.
Barber: We are admonished in Scripture to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Now the wise thing to do is to go in and support Mitt Romney because, again, the alternative is catastrophic.
Green: Absolutely. And like you said, not voting is not only a dereliction of duty, it's really anti-Biblical. It's actually being the servant, remember the parable where they gave the talents? It's being the one that buried their talent. Well that was described in the Bible as being a wicked and slothful servant. I don't want to be that one, man, I want to be one of the other guys.
Barton: So why do we have a question here? Because he's a Mormon? Hey, we've got to get past labels. Just like Obama's Christian label means nothing, Romney's Mormon label means nothing. What matters is the fruit, which one is going to produce more biblical fruit ...
There's only two options Christians have. Christians do not have the option of sitting this one out. You do not have that option, it is not a possibility. You will stand before God and He will say "I gave you your vote, what did you do with your vote?" And we can't just say "well, I chose to sit this one out."
Green: Especially in a situation like this where so much is at stake. What's the verse, when you know what to do and you do nothing? That's sin!
There is no way to interpret this other than a direct instruction to Christians to vote for Romney. This is a Christian speaker taking a concrete stand on matters of politics. It's on the record.
There are hairs to split, of course. Some will likely object that Mr. Green is not the pastor of a church, and WallBuilders Live is a radio show, not a church service. There's no church for the IRS to pursue for breaking its Constitutional mandate to remain neutral in matters of politics. This isn't, by the letter of the law, a matter of church state separation.
The thing is, Mr. Green does speak at churches. On his bio page for Wallbuilders, there are the following two quotes:
“Rick is a down-to-earth, passionate speaker, with a heart that truly seeks to honor and glorify God. His presentation is inspiring, and his character is even more so. We were blessed to have him come.” —John Melton, First Baptist Church, Washington, Missouri
“Rick’s presentation changed the way every member of my church approaches the world around them. People are actually engaging society with the conviction that we are a Christian nation. Thanks!” —Pastor Jeff Devine, Corrigan, Texas
It's pretty difficult to read these and not reach the conclusion that Mr. Green has a habit of telling Christians -- in church -- that they have to vote for Romney. At the very least, Pastor Jeff Devine and First Baptist Church have given us every reason to suspect a serious breach of tax-exempt status.
Even if Mr. Green has not said, in a church, to a congregation, "You must vote for Mitt Romney or you are a sinner," he has said as much on his radio show, to the same congregants who have heard him speak in church. Not only that, he has obviously made presentations to churches about engaging in the creation of a "Christian nation." This, in and of itself, is a severe breach of church-state separation.
We on the secular side of the actual wall (as opposed to whatever wall Green and Barton imagine exists) are not without sympathy for religious people who believe that one politician or another represents their views. However, the law in America is quite plain:
[Churches and religious organizations] must not participate in, or intervene in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.
There it is, straight from the IRS website, under the heading "Jeopardizing Tax-Exempt Status." Wallbuilders is knowingly, actively breaking the law by both advocating for a political party in and on behalf of churches, and continuing to claim tax exempt status. Nobody on the secular side of the wall is saying they can't be political advocates, but if that is what they want to be, then they need to pay their taxes.
Church and state were separated by the founding fathers precisely to prevent the substantial power of churches to dictate how their congregations would vote. When prominent leaders tell their followers that voting for Obama -- or not voting at all -- is a sin, they are invoking no less than the threat of divine retribution and even hell. They are threatening voters. They are coercing voters. These are among the most flagrant and intolerable violations of liberty we can imagine in a country founded on the idea that religion must never become a driving force in the legislative process.
For anyone who might be able to personally substantiate Barton and Green's direct political involvement in specific churches, there is a handy form provided by the IRS which you can submit, as well as a box you can check to inform them that you fear retribution if your name is released. Of course, there's a nice disclaimer at the end of the document warning that the IRS doesn't have to tell you anything about whether or not they take any action, but it can't hurt to try.
If anyone wants to take it upon themselves to document political involvement by a church, regardless of whether these two lawbreakers are involved, the Ehow web page on the subject says copyright law allows you to use pretty much anything you record, so long as you record the service as a whole. It couldn't hurt to research the exact law in your state, however. Christians are openly and brazenly engaging in political activism, and they have lots of tax-free money to spend on it. The only way they can be caught and punished for this illegal activity is for secularists to become activists as well.
In addition to direct activism such as reporting an individual church, concerned citizens can offer support to the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Secular Coalition for America, both of which are in the business of protecting the real wall of separation between church and state.