Reform Jewish Movement Lauds Federal Court Review Of Christian Coalition Political Advocacy
WASHINGTON, July 30, 1996 -- The Commission on Social Action of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,700 Reform rabbis throughout North America, today welcomed the decision of the Federal Election Commission to file suit against the Christian Coalition for violating federal election laws by engaging in partisan political activity.
Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), expressed hope that the review will lead to a "much-needed clarification of the legal restrictions on partisan political involvement by religious organizations." Pelavin urged, however, that the Government -- including the IRS, which is conducting a review of the Christian Coalition's tax-exempt status -- proceed with "the utmost respect for the Constitutionally-protected right of religious individuals and organizations to engage in political activity."
Rabbi David Saperstein, RAC Director and Counsel, commented that "many in the religious community have had concerns about the Christian Coalition's seemingly partisan political activity." While the Constitution "protects the theoretical rights of religious organizations to endorse specific candidates and parties in partisan activities and elections," Saperstein added, "such involvement tarnishes religion by linking the integrity and morality of religion with that of the candidate it supports and undermines democracy by bringing religious coercion and authoritarianism into the voting booths of our nation."
Saperstein also emphasized that "above all, such political activity by religious groups must be done in accordance with the election laws and tax codes of the United States. The Christian Coalition has seemingly forgotten the distinction between the traditional prophetic role of religion in being a moral goad to the conscience of our nation and that of being a booster of one political party."
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1,700 Reform rabbis in 850 congregations throughout North America.