So my brother bishop, Gene Robinson, has gone on public record as endorsing Senator Obama for President!
Beside the fact that I’m not sure anyone cares whom clerics like us plan to vote for, I wonder if he has considered the potential ramifications of this.
I’m not a lawyer and so hardly qualified to render a legal opinion on this, but I certainly cannot remember another bishop endorsing a political candidate in quite this way. It has always been my understanding that, while the church can certainly make “political” statements and get involved in “politics,” our tax exempt status depends upon our remaining “non-parisan.”
I would maintain that the church must always be involved in politics in order to fulfill our prophetic role. Our Washington office regularly “lobbies” our government on behalf of the church’s positions on moral and ethical issues, but never endorses specific candidates or political parties.
There was a big flap recently in one of our large California parishes when a retired rector “appeared” to be endorsing a political candidate. The IRS got involved, as I recall. We seem to have won that dispute precisely because the rector stopped short of endorsing a particular candidate during his sermon.
The Bishop of New Hampshire has now done so quite intentionally. Wonder if his chancellor will be hearing from the IRS any time soon? I wonder if our Office of Government Relations in DC will be?