Letters to the Editor

Readers write about politics in the pulpit and what the financial sector bailout may really cost taxpayers.

The proper role of faith in the public arena

In response to the Sept. 26 article, "Pulpit politics: Pastors to defy IRS": The separation of church and state does not separate faith communities from the public arena. Faith, of course, is personal, but it is not private. Neither Judaism nor Christianity – or any other faith tradition – can be fully, spiritually renewing or redemptive without being socially responsible.

The role of communities of faith is to call attention to the ethical dimensions of all issues, and to keep alive theologically informed values as a norm for social, economic, and political life.

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Having said this, we need to remind ourselves that, as we attempt to apply spiritual values to our public life, our faith tradition is not about imposing sectarian doctrines on others' lives. Nor is it about becoming a religious interest group or single-issue voting bloc. In fact, religious communities – as communities of conscience within our pluralistic public arena – are called to offer an alternative to ideological religion.

We are called to be value-driven but not ideological, political but not narrowly partisan, civil but not soft, and involved but not used.

The Rev. Kevin D. Bean
Worcester, Mass.

I was amazed to find that no mention was made in this article of history prior to 1954, when the "Lyndon Johnson" amendment that prohibited 501(c)3 churches from participating in political campaign activity became law. Before then, sermons on the eve of a US election were common. How can the church influence the world if the church cannot be involved in government?

Joseph W. Cason
St Helens, Ore.

Whatever the reason that churches were once granted immunity from paying taxes, recent activism by churches in politics should cause them to lose that status. In fact, in light of the need for the $700 billion bailout of the US financial sector, tax-exempt status for churches makes little sense. Churches can buy large tracts of land with tax-free dollars and engage in all sorts of fund raising. Some of that money ought to be rendered unto Caesar.

Ronald L. Donaghe
Las Cruces, N.M.

The bill for the bailout

Regarding the Sept. 26 editorial, "The post-bailout agenda": I believe the proposed bailout bill – if approved by Congress – will increase US debt to about $12 trillion while doing nothing to prevent further consolidation and restructuring by US banks. In fact, it will reward irresponsible behavior.

This bill may reassure foreign lenders for a short while, until they see that US debt continues to increase while gross domestic product declines. It may delay, but will certainly not prevent, a recession in the US. However, this bill will severely limit spending on social programs for many years to come.

Peter Mackrael
Guelph, Ontario

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