Critical swing states big part of Pulpit Freedom Sunday
Last Sunday, 1,586 priests and pastors stood up before their congregants across the United States and endorsed a candidate running for public office. They were purposefully breaking the portion of the tax code which prohibits non-profits from making such endorsements, something they see as a violation of freedom of religion and speech.
A tax-exempt group may take positions on political issues and argue for them, that is allowed under U.S. law. Recommending a vote for or against a certain candidate, however, is not permitted.
When Reuters spoke last week to Erik Stanley senior legal counsel of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which has been organizing “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” since it began in 2008, he said the group was not pushing any particular political agenda and participants came from both conservative and liberal churches. He also said no special focus had been put on the nine swing states expected to have the biggest impact on the Presidential election November 6.
Now the ADF has posted a list of who spoke on Sunday.
Of the 1,586, churches involved on Sunday, 425 (or 27 percent) were in the nine swing states of North Carolina, New Hampshire, Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada. Of those swing states, North Carolina had the biggest contingent, 116 houses of worship took part.
As we wrote Sunday, President Obama won North Carolina by just 14,000 votes in 2008. Recent polls show the Democrat now in a dead heat there with Republican challenger Mitt Romney, making sermons just before elections potentially critical, according to strategist from both political parties.
Paul Shumacker, a long-time North Carolina consultant to Republican candidates, explained that regular churchgoers tended to form a strong voter base. In a race as close as the one between Obama and Romney in the state, “anything that works to build intensity becomes absolutely critical,” he said.