National Review: Does Religious Speech Threaten Democracy? (In the News)

By Zac Morgan

Section 2 allows Congress to explicitly ban corporations or other associations from spending money to influence elections — but Lord only knows what “influencing elections” actually means. (To give you an idea, a surprising number of states, even with the protections of the current First Amendment, seem to believe it includes saying the name of a candidate a couple of months before an election, regardless of context.) Many places of worship incorporate as nonprofit entities. Worse, section 3 explicitly puts the religion clauses up for grabs.

Do you know of any churches, mosques, or synagogues that discuss current events? Maybe they sometimes discuss the morality of war? Maybe, sometimes, candidates running for office are associated with a current war? Congratulations! A message from your priest, imam, or rabbi might actually be — to use a campaign-finance term — the “functional equivalent” of virtually any presidential campaign conducted in the 21st century. And because religious organizations are often incorporated, I certainly hope that the messages being delivered advance “democratic self-governance.”

Lest you think this is crazy, the state of Montana did go after a church for allegedly violating campaign-finance laws just a few years ago. The church in question was an “incorporated religious institution” whose pastor aired a simulcast of an anti-same-sex-marriage religious broadcast during the same time he allowed a member of his church to “place[] roughly twenty copies” of an anti-same-sex-marriage petition in the church’s foyer.

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The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.