Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey is suggesting that the IRS revisit the Catholic church's tax-exempt status (because) the role the bishops played in pushing the Stupak amendment, which unfairly restricts access for low-income women to insurance coverage for abortions, was more than mere advocacy.
It's not a new argument. Gay rights groups argue "if the LDS church insists on meddling into political affairs they should not be allowed to hold a tax exempt status." Opponents of Jerry Falwell''s Moral Majority expressed similar fears twenty years ago about religious groups' involvement in politics.
The only thing missing from Lynn Woolsey's concern is a knowledge of history. Is she unaware of the Catholic bishops' support for nuclear disarmament? The involvement of mainline American Protestant denominations in the nuclear freeze movement in the eighties? Perhaps she never heard of the Reverend Dr.Martin Luther King. Fifty years ago he led the Montgomery Alabama bus boycott. King's Dexter Avenue Baptist Church frequently hosted rallies during the boycott. Along with other Southern church leaders, King formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to fight segregation; they were joined in the early sixties by many northern white church leaders. Church involvement in the civil rights movement was not peripheral; it was critical. It was certainly, as Lynn Woolsey says of the Catholic bishops' role in the Stupak amendment, "more than advocacy."
Fifty years ago, segregationists such as Ross Barnett and George Wallace argued that churches had no role to play in politics. Lynn Woolsey is in good company.