Friday, July 11, 2008

An Attack on Religious Freedom

I keep a log of ideas for posts mostly predicated on some issue which caught my eye but didn’t seem urgent. I confess it is easy then for the note to become buried and ignored. For whatever reason this one slid by and it should be aired because it affects all people of faith.

Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, a Republican, is on the powerful Senate Finance Committee. He was chair but relinquished that post upon the Democrat takeover in 2006 and now is the ranking minority member.

He recently contacted six different ministries on the basis of media rumors to determine if they were in violation of their tax exempt status as “non-profits.” Interestingly, they all happened to be “prosperity gospel” oriented. I have the link here so you can read the whole thing including communication from the committee and the evangelists’ response.

Like the author of the piece linked, I am not a big fan of prosperity gospel. I am also not a big backer of television ministries. However, I am a huge proponent of the Constitution and the rule of law. Even though the aforementioned are not my cup of tea I do believe that they are entitled to preach what they see fit, to evangelize their own way and to enjoy the protection of the first amendment to prosecute their activities. My personal opinions should have no bearing on their freedoms. Neither, should Senator Grassley’s power in the Senate be used to harass these folks on suspect evidence, especially that provided by the press.

I really hope you read the article because it will alert you to the dangers faced by every religious group. The founders intention was to separate the pursuit of faith from the business of government. The intention was not to create a forum for legislators to require reports from people smeared by the media and their own personal preferences. As the article points out frequently, the proper avenue for prosecution of any suspected felonious activity would be through the facilities of the U.S. Treasury.

This probably has gained more importance for me as a result of spending every other Sunday as a guest in a wide variety of congregations, not of the Restoration. I have been welcomed as a fellow believer in Jesus Christ and have immensely enjoyed each and every experience. I have heard some great sermons, enjoyed some moving music, and witnessed outpourings of faith on the part of the participants. Have I ever been tempted to abandon my congregation seventy miles distant? Certainly not. Do I believe that the folks with whom I worship on odd Sundays are tools of Satan? Absolutely not. They do not have the history of those of us in the Restoration but their concern for others and their own histories of faith speak to their individual relationship with their Creator.

To single out one narrow slice of the gigantic Christian pie to question their validity is not the proper role of any Senate committee. We have appropriate law enforcement agencies in place to conduct oversight and investigations of non-profits. Sen. Grassley, you have other far more pressing matters to attend to.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

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