Religious leaders, politics, and the blurry line

5:29 PM, Oct 28, 2012   |    comments
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St. Louis ( KSDK ) -- Religious leaders have always played a big part in how their parishioners view elections.

"This is a perfect place to shape people. I think a religious leader, a pastor has a responsibility to do that," says Director of the Paul VI Institute of the Archdiocese of St. Louis Dr. Ed Hogan.

"My role is to see that they make the best and wisest choice for things that affect their lives," adds Bishop Lawrence Wooten of Williams Temple Church of God in Christ.

Bishop Wooten is also the President of the Ecumenical Leadership Council.

Both men say religious leaders have a role to play in educating parishioners.

"Do we say on these issues what the church has to say on them? Yes, and with clarity. Do we tell people what conclusions to draw from that about who to vote for? No. That's where we don't go," Hogan says.

"I tell them 'I will vote this particular way.' And I say I cannot tell you how to vote. The reason...I looked at the record and what I see as the best choice for me and my family," Wooten says.

"The things that pastors say to their congregations can make a difference in how eager they are to vote and what they have in mind when they vote," shares political analyst Dave Robertson.

He tells us religious leaders could have more influence than usual because of how close many key races are, including presidential, U.S. Senate, and other local races. But he says there are limits.

"If you cross too much of a line you could have the Internal Revenue Service looking closely at if you violated rules for tax exemption which is critically important to churches. What's easier to do and perfectly legal is to make sure the people have in mind the things that you want them to focus on."

"If there's a point at which the pastor wants to cross the line, he needs to do so clearly and be willing to accept the consequences of that and not just wink at the rules," says Hogan.






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