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Pastors Saying ‘Stay Home On Election Day’ Dishonor Civil Rights Pioneer John Lewis

by David Badash on September 17, 2012

in News,Politics,Religion

Post image for Pastors Saying ‘Stay Home On Election Day’ Dishonor Civil Rights Pioneer John Lewis

Some Black pastors are telling their congregations to stay home on election day, because of President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage, and because they don’t trust Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion, according to news reports today. But those who counsel their congregants to do so are risking repeal of Obamacare and the voting rights act, just for starters. And those who do so also  snub their noses at civil rights pioneer and Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, who earlier this month said, “your vote is precious, almost sacred.”

Brothers and sisters, do you want to go back? Or do you want to keep America moving forward? My dear friends, your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful, nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union. Not too long ago, people stood in unmovable lines. They had to pass a so-called literacy test, pay a poll tax. On one occasion, a man was asked to count the number of bubbles in a bar of soap. On another occasion, one was asked to count the jelly beans in a jar-all to keep them from casting their ballots.  Today it is unbelievable that there are Republican officials still trying to stop some people from voting. They are changing the rules, cutting polling hours and imposing requirements intended to suppress the vote. The Republican leader in the Pennsylvania House even bragged that his state’s new voter ID law is “gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state.” That’s not right. That’s not fair. That’s not just. And similar efforts have been made in Texas, Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina. I’ve seen this before. I’ve lived this before. Too many people struggled, suffered and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote.

Who would intentionally give that away?

Watch: DNC: 1961 Freedom Fighter, Congressman John Lewis Decries GOP Vote Suppression

Pastors who tell congregants to not vote, to stay home, also do so at the very peril of their Church’s tax exempt status, and thus, their future.

Churches that file as 501(c)(3) organizations are required to follow decades-old rules the IRS conveniently makes very, very clear, including on this page and in this handbook:

“Under the Internal Revenue Code, all IRC section 501(c)(3) organizations, including churches and religious organizations, are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. Contributions to political campaign funds or public statements of position (verbal or written) made by or on behalf of the organization in favor of or in opposition to any candidate for public office clearly violate the prohibition against political campaign activity. Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise tax.”

Saying “stay home” and “don’t vote” violate this basic tenet of the IRS rules.

But the tax issue aside, Pastors of the African American community — indeed, all pastors, preachers, and leaders of communities of all faiths, should be aware of what’s at stake in this election, and accept the fact that not voting is equal to handing a vote to your opponent — and handing away your rights. Surely, that is not an act the Church wants to teach its members, is it?

“Some black clergy see no good presidential choice between a Mormon candidate and one who supports gay marriage, so they are telling their flocks to stay home on Election Day,” an AP article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports today:

That’s a worrisome message for the nation’s first African-American president, who can’t afford to lose any voters from his base in a tight race.

The pastors say their congregants are asking how a true Christian could back same-sex marriage, as President Barack Obama did in May. As for Republican Mitt Romney, the first Mormon nominee from a major party, congregants are questioning the theology of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its former ban on men of African descent in the priesthood.

In 2008, Obama won 95 percent of black voters and is likely to get an overwhelming majority again. But any loss of votes would sting.

“When President Obama made the public statement on gay marriage, I think it put a question in our minds as to what direction he’s taking the nation,” said the Rev. A.R. Bernard, founder of the predominantly African-American Christian Cultural Center in New York. Bernard, whose endorsement is much sought-after in New York and beyond, voted for Obama in 2008. He said he’s unsure how he’ll vote this year.

If Mitt Romney wins the election, he will most assuredly replace retiring Supreme Court Justices with even more conservative ones, paving the way for the following:

Crawford v. Marion County Election Board will stand, enabling more and greater voting rights restrictions.

Obamacare will be dismantled, repealed, or whatever else the Republicans would like to do.

Citizens United, which claims money is speech, will grow even larger.

Are these issues anyone can afford to ignore?

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TurboKitty September 17, 2012 at 11:46 pm

As Geddy Lee once sang … "even by not choosing you have still made a choice" …

tomchicago01 September 18, 2012 at 1:09 am

This is actually a highly partisan strategy to deny Obama votes. It is not in the least an expression of some sour-grapes disdain at the ballot choices. The voters' staying home gives an advantage to the more feverishly mobilized GOP–who will definitely NOT be staying home–and the pastors, activist and highly politicized, are well aware of this, their 501 (c)( 3) status notwithstanding.

Raymond_Barrett November 2, 2012 at 10:42 am

Search for – Black pastors aren't saying 'don't vote' – on There does not appear to be even *one* verified case of a Black pastor telling his congregation not to vote.

Read the article above again, and notice that there are no examples given of anyone actually doing this.

As far as the IRS issue goes, it is doubtful that the IRS would go after anybody for saying "don't vote." There is an organized effort called "pulpit freedom sunday" (google it) where churches all over America talk about the issues and candidates, and essentially *brag* about the fact that they've done so in defiance of the IRS. There's even a *list* of participating churches, but as far as I know, none of them have ever been pursued by the IRS.

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