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Pastors plan to preach politics from the pulpit

September 25, 2008 |  3:17 pm

church = state Not sure who you should vote for in November? Not to worry -- if you attend one of several dozen churches in California and 21 other states, your pastor's going to stand in the pulpit and tell you who it should be.

No big deal, save for that whole "separation of church and state" thing and the fact that IRS rules say that's grounds for religious organizations to lose their nonprofit status. Which turns out to be the whole point. Details on this bit of civil disobedience (and a poll) from Duke Helfand:

Setting the stage for a collision of religion and politics, Christian ministers from California and 21 other states will use their pulpits Sunday to deliver political sermons or endorse presidential candidates -- defying a federal ban on campaigning by nonprofit groups.

The pastors' advocacy could violate the Internal Revenue Service's rules against political speech, with the purpose of triggering IRS investigations.

That would allow their patron, the conservative legal group Alliance Defense Fund, to challenge the IRS' rules, a risky strategy that one defense fund attorney acknowledges could cost the churches their tax-exempt status. Congress made it illegal in 1954 for tax-exempt groups to publicly support or oppose political candidates.

"I'm going to talk about the un-biblical stands that Barack Obama takes. Nobody who follows the Bible can vote for him," said the Rev. Wiley S. Drake of First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park. "We may not be politically correct, but we are going to be biblically correct. We are going to vote for those who follow the Bible."

Wonder how just how literal a reading of the bible Rev. Drake intends. Considering that in Leviticus alone we're told not to shave or cut our hair, wear clothes made of more than one fabric, and that adultery is punishable by death, I'm guessing truly biblical candidates may be scarce.

That's Wiley S. Drake in the photo, shot back in 1999. He's not too happy about the IRS' current interpretation of the separation of church and state.

Meanwhile, please click on over to the story, where you can vote in our poll -- should pastors be allowed to preach politics. So far -- and this will likely change several times -- the answer is "No."

--Veronique de Turenne

Photo: Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times