A New Church-State Controversy

January 29, 1999

From time to time we hear of different church-state controversies, but the latest one is a bit different. When President Clinton spoke at a Baltimore church on the eve of the November elections, the nationally televised event was deemed a success. It helped Democrats in Maryland and across the nation fare better than expected at the ballot box.

But the gathering of 2000 African-Americans also left a new church-state controversy. The get-out-the-vote rally has been seen by many as a clear violation of church and state. They contend that the New Psalmist Baptist Church was inappropriately used for a partisan rally. And the lone Republican official who attended now says he was used for political cover.

At the rally, local Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings solicited $1000 in political contributions from numerous supporters who attended the Sunday service and met with the president on the church grounds. Many are beginning to say that this violation of church and state in not an isolated incident.

You may remember back in 1996, the luncheon attended by Vice President Al Gore at the Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple in Hacienda Heights. The temple gathering raised $140,000 even though the monks take a vow of poverty. It was one of the most embarrassing episodes for the Democratic Party and the 1996 presidential campaign.

One critic said of this latest incident that it was an "unseemly mixing of politics and religion." She said, "There ought to be a separation between a partisan political fund-raising event and a Sunday morning church service. In this case, the lines have been completely blurred."

Certainly there is some difference of opinion of how far church and state should be separated. But I would think all Americans would agree that raising money for political campaigns in churches and other places of worship is inappropriate, if not illegal.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.

© 1998 Probe Ministries International