Monday, August 28, 2006

Upcoming Forum: Separation of Church and State

Cross-posted from Radical Civility

On Sunday I made it to church -- well, mostly -- and arrived in plenty of time to warble tunelessly through a couple of hymns before listening to the liturgical reading a sermon. The sermons at North Church UCC bear only a nodding acquaintance to those I heard in my evangelical past. There's no verse by verse exegesis, for instance -- not that I ever found that sort of thing exciting. Rather, the day's scriptural text served as a jumping off point for mobilizing the congregation in favor of greater community and political activism -- for with the mid-term election now just two months away, it's time to either organize or cede the political battleground to the Christian right.

After church about a dozen of us hung around to participate in one of several "listening sessions" apparently being organized under the auspices of the Industrial Areas Foundation Ohio and, even more to the point, We Believe Ohio. The focus was to ask attendees, "What is the one thing the next governor of Ohio could do to make life in Ohio easier for your family and community?" The purpose of the sessions, ultimately, was

  • To identify the issues for our Faith Vote Columbus agenda platform which are most widely and deeply felt across congregations and neighborhood associations.
  • To identify leadership for the Fall 2006 voter mobilization effort.
  • To identify stories and testimonies which exemplify the issues of our agenda of our aganda platform.
  • To create a broad, diverse constituency that has the experience of listening and of being listening to.
Here's the rest of the game plan:

The point of the operation is to create a sort of counterweight to the legally questionable but politically effective efforts of the Fairfield Christian Church's Ohio Restoration Project and the World Harvest Church's Reformation Ohio, both of which function brazenly as religious PACs (political action committees). The key difference between the contemplated effort by We Believe Ohio and those of the ORP and RO is the determination to operate within the restrictions imposed by the IRS concerning partisan political activity.

Some of us approach the task with misgivings about the wisdom of entangling our Christian witness with the rough and tumble of electoral politics. Underscoring this ambivalence about partipation by religious organizations in the political process is an ambitious forum being organized by a member of my church, the indefatigable Leslie K. Although a moderator and additional panelists are still being lined up, the heavy hitters are already in place. These include:

  • Marc Owens, JD, Former Director, Exempt Organizations Divisions, IRS, Washington DC office. His thorough grasp of the relevant IRS codes were indispensable in crafting a stong case against the excesses of the ORP and RO.

The forum will be held on Sunday, October 8, from 2:00 to 4:00 PM in the Vern Riffe Center, Columbus.

Basically, this event will be required viewing for anyone interested in the question of church involvement in the political process.

Once I know more I'll start cobbling together a website devoted to the event. In the meantime, consider this a heads up.


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