October 17, 2008

Christian Advocacy Groups Wield Half A Billion Dollars Worth Of Lobbying Power

Hemant Mehta has a very interesting, and rather intimidating, bit of information from Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Christian-based, right-wing advocacy groups like Focus on the Family and the ACLJ take in more than half a billion dollars a year in fundraising. Much of it is tax-free. Yes, I know that the lobbying arms of these organizations are not tax-exempt, but they split up their lobbying and "public education" functions with lawyer-like care and politicians, rightly, see the technically separate entities as part of the same overall enterprises.

Now, AU may be stretching things just a bit by including the Christian Broadcasting Network as an advocacy group. When I've seen CBN (usually for only thirty to sixty seconds while flipping between channels), I haven't seen much by way of political activism. For the most part, it dispenses actual religion -- exhortations to worship Jesus, readings from the Bible and meditations on the meaning of those passages, and begging for money.

Lots and lots of begging for money.

CBN is not entirely apolitical; I have seen the preachers on the TV explaining why they think abortion is evil, and ruminating on how terrible it is that in some countries their missionaries are not allowed to preach the gospel. But I don't think that is crossing the line into the kind of advocacy that should fairly render the entity a taxable business under the law as it is currently written. Nor do I think a religious group, acting in good faith, needs to avoid confronting the moral and ethical issues of the day just because those issues are also being confronted in the political arena. In fact, if churches and other religious entities had to pay taxes like everyone else, I wouldn't have any problem at all with the whole issue.

Now, not having had a TV in the home for more than two years, I've not seen any of this CBN stuff in that entire time. Truly, I am blessed.

All the same, that's a staggering amount of money being spent to spread Christianity in the public forums of our society. More proof, as if any were needed, that Christians are not an oppressed minority.

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