Saturday, January 23, 2010

Separation of Church and State?

I received two pieces of news recently that were a fascinating glimpse into the relationship between church and state in the United States and Canada.

•The first was news that the documentary film, "8: The Mormon Proposition," will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this weekend.  According to the Washington Post, "The film contends that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints built on decades of anti-gay teachings to justify its political activism and tried to hide its role as the driving force behind the coalition of conservatives that helped pass Proposition 8."

The Mormon Church has responded to the trailer of the film by saying that, "Clearly, anyone looking for balance and thoughtful discussion of a serious topic will need to look elsewhere."

The film uses the investigative work of California political activist Fred Karger.  He claims that the Mormon Church provided some 25,000 campaign workers weekly as well as 71% of the individual contributions to the Prop 8 campaign.

You can take a look at the trailer below this post. 

•The second piece of news was that the Canadian government revoked the tax exempt status of a church because of its anti-abortion and anti-gay work, which the government considers political.  According to The National Post:
A Calgary church has lost its charitable status in part because it spends too much of its time advocating on social issues such as abortion and marriage.
In October, the Kings Glory Fellowship Association, a non-denominational Protestant group, was told by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) that for several reasons, including a lack of clarity on how it spends it money, they could no longer issue charitable receipts.
But the letter highlighted that the group spent more than 10% of its time on non-partisan political activities and therefore strayed into activities “outside its stated purpose.”
The CRA allows charitable organizations to spend some time on “political activities,” but the cutoff is 10%. A spokesman for the CRA was not immediately available to explain how the percentage of time a group spends on non-charitable works is determined.
Artur Pawlowski, the head of the Kings Glory Fellowship, said his group “has nothing to do with politics and we do not advertise for a party or a candidate. The only political activity you can connect us to is defending our right to speak.”
This is a fascinating contrast in the way two governments deal with the separation of church and state.  I can only imagine the backlash in our country if the government defined tax-exempt status as the Canadian government does.  I also find response of the head of Kings Glory Fellowship misleading, at best.  No one is taking away the group's right to free speech.  What the government is doing is taking away the ability to speak on the taxpayers' dime.

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