TV Preacher Resumes Political Crusade

Only a month after Pat Robertson resigned from the Christian Coalition and
promised to devote his time to religious ministry, the TV preacher has
returned to hardball politics.

On his Christian Broadcasting Network show today, Robertson promoted a House
bill that would revise provisions of federal tax law and allow houses of
worship to endorse political candidates. The measure, H.R. 2357, has been
introduced by Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and has 110 cosponsors, almost all
of them Republicans.

Appearing as a guest on Robertson’s “700 Club,” Jones urged the program’s
estimated one million viewers to contact their House members and pressure
Rep. Bill Thomas, chair of the Ways and Means Committee, to schedule a
hearing on the bill in March. Jones said the measure was drafted by the
American Center for Law and Justice, the legal arm of Robertson’s
religio-political empire.

The push for the Jones bill comes in an election year when control of
Congress is up for grabs. In recent weeks, White House political strategists
have expressed concern that evangelical Christians did not vote for Bush in
2000 in expected numbers. The Jones bill and Robertson’s enthusiastic
support for it may be part of a move to spark GOP endorsements by
conservative churches in the 2002 and 2004 elections.

Robertson made the partisan character of the Jones bill clear. Railing
against the “draconian” character of federal tax law, Robertson said on the
show, “As it is now, if somebody comes out and says, ‘I support George
Bush,’ theoretically the IRS can come in and take away their tax exemption.”

Robertson’s attempt to change federal tax law and prod America’s churches
into partisan politics comes only four weeks after his Dec. 5 announcement
that he was quitting as president of the Christian Coalition to push
national revival and “focus on those things that will bring forth the
greatest spiritual benefit.”

Robertson’s critics were not surprised at his quick relapse into partisan
politics.

‘This leopard will never change his spots,” said Barry Lynn, executive
director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “Robertson
is as interested in winning votes for the Republicans as he is in winning
souls.”

During today’s show, Robertson charged that Americans United has sent a
“scare letter out to churches which was filled with misinformation” about
involvement in politics. In fact, Americans United has simply provided
accurate informational materials to church leaders about the kinds of
activities that are allowed and forbidden under federal tax law.

Said AU’s Lynn, “Robertson will never give up his dream of forging churches
into a partisan political machine. If that dream ever comes true, it will be
a nightmare for America. Both religion and government are harmed when the
two are recklessly mixed.”

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington,
D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the
importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.