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Clergy to Politicians: 'Respect Our Faith'

Interfaith Group Launches Campaign to Protect Houses of Worship from Partisan Politics

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 29, 2006

AUSTIN As election season heats up, an interfaith group of clergy is launching a campaign to protect Texas churches and other houses of worship from partisan political battles.

“Dragging churches into partisan politics endangers the integrity of our houses of worship and is disrespectful of the faith and beliefs of all congregants,” said Father Samuel Hose, pastor of St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Round Rock.

Hose and more than 100 other Texas clergy have already signed on to the Respect Our Faith campaign. The Texas Faith Network, a project of the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, is sponsoring the campaign.

The campaign calls on clergy and laypeople to pledge to promote civic engagement in congregations while still protecting sacred spaces from partisan politics. These pledge signers will also work to educate congregants about the campaign.

“This campaign is not intended to make houses of worship ‘politics-free’ zones,” said Rabbi Neal Katz of Congregation Beth El in Tyler. “The goal is to stop politicians from using our sacred spaces to divide people of faith for partisan political gain.”

The campaign’s launch comes just four months after the Internal Revenue Service reported that the incidence of improper political activity by charities and churches has been sharply increasing. The IRS has investigated churches in various states after complaints that pastors endorsed from their pulpits Republican or Democratic candidates for office.

In Texas pressure groups such as the Texas Restoration Project have recruited pastors in an effort to make churches into partisan political machines backing favored candidates, issues and viewpoints to the exclusion of all others.

“Clergy can protect the integrity of their houses of worship by ensuring that all political viewpoints are respected in their congregations,” said the Rev. Gerald Britt, a Baptist pastor and executive director of Central Dallas Ministries.

Politicians should not exploit people of faith by seeking or accepting the endorsement of their churches and other houses of worship, said the Rev. Timothy Tutt, pastor of United Christian Church in Austin.

“Our campaign is a line in the sand,” Tutt said. “We are putting politicians on notice that ‘enough is enough’ keep partisan politics out of our houses of worship and respect the faith of all Texans.”

Clergy and laypeople can learn more about the campaign at www.respectourfaith.org.

 

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