Kahn Comment: Kinda like Walid Shoebat said once: Most churches seem to just want to be left alone and any money given to them is used to stay open. The Pastor’s should not be emailed. Email the people. That’s where the action is.
Ted Cruz is on a crusade to lock down what he calls “the evangelical bracket,” emailing 100,000 pastors last weekend to mobilize their congregations in a 50-state campaign to defund Planned Parenthood.
The Texas GOP senator, who carried the votes of many religious conservatives in his 2012 Senate run, maintained at a religious liberty-themed campaign rally in Iowa last Friday that the Supreme Court and other institutions are waging a “war on faith.”
But Cruz has some work to do with the clergy, at least in terms of persuading them to drop some change in his collection plate. So far in the 2016 cycle, he has drawn less than $18,800 from pastors and other employees of places of worship.
In fact, the presidential field’s leading recipient of contributions from this group of donors is Democrat Hillary Clinton, who had brought in at least $47,400 as of the end of June. Among others who gave to Clinton was Dagmar Braun-Celeste, a former First Lady of Ohio who was secretly ordained as a Roman Catholic priest more than a decade ago and then excommunicated because the church doesn’t allow women to be priests; she gave Clinton $1,000. Rev. Timothy Boggs, the priest at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, posted a $1,000 donation as well. Boggs is not without a political compass: For two decades before taking his vows, he was Time Warner’s top lobbyist in Washington, and he worked for a congressional office prior to that.
Clinton — a lifelong Methodist and former Sunday school teacher — also received donations from at least six individuals who identified themselves as working for Methodist churches, and took in gifts from Catholic and Episcopal priests and at least one rabbi, among others.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister who received strong support from the religious right when he ran for president in 2007, led the Republican field and came in second overall, at $33,500 received from employees of religious organizations.
Peter LeBlanc, a pastor at a Korean Baptist church in Illinois, maxed out to Huckabee, giving him $5,400 (presumably $2,700 for the primary and the same for the general election, the most that’s allowed). So did Thomas Wilcox, pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Branson, Mo. Jacqueline Britton, an administrative assistant at the Metropolitan Church of God in Birmingham, Ala., and others gave Huckabee $2,700. But despite Huckabee’s enthusiasm for the state of Israel — on a trip there last week he said it included the entire occupied West Bank — he received no identifiable contributions from rabbis or employees of synagogues or other Jewish religious institutions.
Cruz was third, though he was the star of small repeat donors like Arnold Allen Brevick, the pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Northport, Fla. Brevick made 20 contributions to Cruz between early April and late June, ranging from $5 to $100. Gary Griffin, pastor of Fowlerville Church of the Nazarene in Michigan, made seven donations of between $25 and $50, and John Postel, pastor of God and Country Fellowship in Montgomery, Texas, gave six contributions ranging from $5 to $35. Small donors who respond to repeated fundraising pitches are highly prized by campaigns.
Not far behind Cruz: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at nearly $17,000 and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) at almost $15,000. Nobody else cracked five figures. Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn.), who locked up the support of the religious right in his 2012 White House bid, raised just $420 from employees of churches, synagogues or mosques so far in this cycle.
(It’s important to note that employees of religious groups are typically not highly paid, so are unlikely to make large donations to political causes. Our review includes only donors who have given more than $200, since they are the only ones for which itemized data showing occupation and other information is available.)
Churches and other charities have been banned from political campaign activitysince 1954, when then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson (D-Texas), who was facing stiff opposition a candidate popular with religious conservatives in his re-election race, succeeded in attaching an amendment to the tax code. But only only occasionallyhas the IRS taken action against a church for over-the-line electioneering, and not at all in recent years. In 2012, a complaint was filed with the IRS against a Texas church that posted a sign on its grounds reading “Vote for the Mormon, Not the Muslim!” There’s no sign it was pursued, though.
Last year, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) settled a lawsuit against the IRS accusing the agency of not enforcing the ban on partisan political activity by churches. Evidence that there is such activity isn’t hard to find: “Pulpit Freedom Sundays” are held every election cycle during which church leaders endorse or attack candidates to their congregations; the group behind the effort, the Alliance Defending Freedom, wants Congress to repeal the Johnson amendment so preachers can endorse candidates. FFRF settled its suit after being assured that the IRS had no policy of nonenforcement against churches, and in fact had flagged churches for potential political activity since 2010, including 99 that were designated for “high priority examination.”
There’s no sign any investigations are moving, though. Since the IRS was embroiled in bad publicity in 2013 for targeting tea party and other nonprofits — though not churches — for possibly impermissible political activity, it has been virtually frozen in place in this area.
Besides, said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of FFRF, churches “are free to tell their congregations how to vote in terms of referenda and initiatives, and to tell them to write to Congress” — something that Cruz can take advantage of as he builds his credentials with religious groups in the effort to defund Planned Parenthood. That could reap big rewards for him come the next Pulpit Freedom Sunday.