Church Politicking Bill Would Help Bush, Says Sponsor

A North Carolina congressman says his bill allowing church-based electioneering would help the re-election prospects of President George W. Bush and other Republicans.

Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) has spent years trying to advance the so-called “Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act,” claiming current federal tax law muzzles the free speech rights of religious leaders.

But in late July, Paul Weyrich, the ultra-conservative leader of the Free Congress Foundation, wrote in a commentary that Jones actually sees H.R. 235 as a way to help elect Republicans to public office.

“Jones is absolutely convinced that this can be accomplished in Congress,” Weyrich wrote. “He is equally convinced that the passage of his bill means the difference between victory and defeat for the president and many Senate candidates.”

Weyrich also reported that Jones is urging the House leadership to attach his bill “to some must-pass legislation and to fight for it in a Conference Committee with the Senate.”

According to a “Legislative Update” from the Religious Freedom Coalition (RFC), a Religious Right lobbying group, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) may try to include the Jones bill in an appropriations bill.

“Please pray he is successful,” wrote RFC’s Bill Murray, “because this is the only way churches will not be attacked this election year by the ACLU and ‘Rev’ Barry Lynn’s far left nut group, Americans United for Separation of Church and State.”

Current federal tax law forbids churches and other charities in the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt category from endorsing candidates for public office. These organizations may address moral and political issues, but they may not use their resources to support candidates.