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Church and State (Again!)
Abstract: IRS to investigate UCC over 2007 Obama address to assembly. Missouri Synod next?
In a letter dated Feb. 20, 2008, the Internal Revenue Service notified the United Church of Christ's national offices in Cleveland, Ohio, that the agency was initiating a church tax inquiry "because reasonable belief exists that the United Church of Christ has engaged in political activities that could jeopardize its tax-exempt status." The incident under investigation is an address by U.S. Senator Barack Obama to the UCC's 2007 General Synod.
The Rev. John H. Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president said: "The very fact of an IRS investigation is disturbing. When the invitation to an elected public official to speak to the national meeting of his own church family is called into question, it has a chilling effect on every religious community that seeks to encourage politicians and church members to thoughtfully relate their personal faith to their public responsibilities. We are confident that the IRS investigation will confirm that no laws were violated"
Obama, an active member of the United Church of Christ for more than 20 years, addressed the UCC's 50th anniversary General Synod in Hartford, Conn., on June 23, 2007, as one of 60 speakers representing the arts, media, academia, science, technology, business and government. Each speaker was asked to reflect on the intersection of their faith and their respective vocations or fields of expertise. The invitation to Obama was extended a year before he became a Democratic presidential candidate.
"The United Church of Christ took great care to ensure that Senator Obama's appearance before the 50th anniversary General Synod met appropriate legal and moral standards," Thomas told United Church News.
Before the senator's remarks, the 10,000 UCC members present were advised that Obama's appearance was not to be a campaign-related event and that electioneering would not be tolerated. No political leaflets, signs or placards were allowed.
Read the whole story.
We wonder if a similar investigation might not be pending for the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) whose 2007 national convention received a brief video-taped address from President George W. Bush, a non-Lutheran.