The Spectacle Blog

Tipping the Scales for Obama

By on 3.10.08 | 2:22PM

The Wall Street Journal has a Page One story today by reporter Suzanne Sataline headlined "Obama Pastor's Sermons May Violate Tax Laws -- His Chicago Church Lauds Candidate; Nonprofits' Problem."

This is indeed a problem, particularly when it comes to both Obama's personal church and his larger United Church of Christ denomination, as I have been reporting periodically at TAS. The UCC is also my own denomination, and, along with others, I have been a critic of the national church's insistence on turning the church into a playground for liberals using the official church structure. The WSJ article this morning points out, correctly in my view, that this problem runs rampant at Obama's Trinity UCC. A WSJ review of 13 sermons found 9 of the 13 "appearing to promote Obama's candidacy." The paper quotes Donald Tobin, an associate dean at Ohio State University law school who formerly worked on nonprofit issues in the Department of Justice, as saying: "There does appear to be a pattern of attempting to tip the scales in a way for Barack Obama. And churches shouldn't be doing that."

This "pattern of attempting to tip the scales" for Obama is also rampant within the national UCC. The church, as mentioned in four articles last June, September, and last week here at TAS, has been blatantly employing church resources in ways that give Obama favorable publicity. This in turn has launched a new investigation into the church by the IRS. Indeed, my last story, calling for Obama to pick up the tab for what UCC president John Thomas called a potential seven-figure legal bill, was greeted with a howl of outrage by the UCC's blogger in chief, the ever-interesting Rev. Chuck Currie. At unitedchurchofchrist.blogspot.com you will find Currie taking me to task with the title "Jeffery [sic] Lord Just Doesn't Bother With Facts." Currie had his stole in a knot because at the last minute on Monday (4:10 pm) he posted the news that in spite of the two urgent e-mails Thomas had sent to members pleading for money, a Washington law firm, WilmerHale, would now represent the UCC at "no charge" and the plea for money, which had raised only a paltry $59,000-plus at that point, was to be put on hold -- although Thomas left the door open that funds would still be needed. Currie conveniently left out the fact that, wonder of wonders, the lead lawyer in the case for the UCC, former Clinton Solicitor General Seth Waxman, is -- you guessed it -- an Obama supporter.

I contacted Currie through his blog, said that yes, indeed, with column already submitted I had not checked (at 4;10 pm) to learn the sudden news of Waxman's hiring, but had posted about that as soon as I did hear. As a church member I tried to see how far we got in a dialogue in what the UCC calls its tradition of "extravagant welcome."

I also mentioned the contradictory message of the church's leadership protesting that its free speech rights were being trampled while Currie himself was busy keeping a UCC-related site called UCC Truths off the church's official Blog Roll, a site that aside from being, as I said, "deeply vanilla" in its criticisms, does in fact keep members informed about the news the UCC hierarchy thinks is not fit to print. Criticism of Obama's appearance is one of these items, and Currie, also an Obama staffer, was effectively using the church-funded blog to keep the UCC Truth's stories by UCC'ers critical of Obama and the UCC off the page. In the mischievous spirit of the late William F. Buckley and our own RET, I compared the creator of UCC Truths, one James Hutchins, to a figurative Solzhenitsyn and his banishment to the Gulag. This drew a sharp reply from the Reverend Currie that I had compared both Currie and his friend and colleague The Great Leader Reverend Thomas to the "murderous thugs" who had run the Soviet Union.

I replied that I was pleased to hear at least someone in the higher realms of the UCC finally admit -- albeit over a decade and a half after its demise -- that the Soviet Union was in fact run by "murderous thugs," a big no-no back in the days when the UCC was telling its members that if the U.S. just left Vietnam and Cambodia there would be peace. No word yet from Chuck about the genocide and "re-education camps'" that resulted from the UCC's vision, or whether the church is mulling an apology.

After this exchange, silence. I kept thinking of that great WFB response when asked why my then (and yes, still now) hero Bobby Kennedy refused to debate on Firing Line. "Why does baloney reject the grinder?" Buckley replied with that mischievous grin. Even as other UCC'ers posted notes asking me questions, I was not allowed to reply. A question on whether I was being censored went unanswered. A question on Constitutional law went unanswered. Chuck was kind enough to say earlier, in reference to UCC Truths and presumably myself, that "There is a difference between extravagant welcome and letting thieves into your house to steal." Having been baptized into this church, with parents and grandparents as members and active members, and being a local officer myself, I found this description revealing. What we are stealing, I suspect, is just the good name of the now very-much soiled by the left UCC. Stealing it back.

Thanks to Senator Obama, this story has legs. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: This from the UCC's Rev. Chuck Currie, August 14, 2005:

"Justice Sunday II -- like the first Justice Sunday -- was a gross misappropriation of the Christian faith for a partisan political agenda."

And right before he told us all those sentiments, he said this, the kicker as to what Currie really believes about stepping over the line -- if you are conservative Christians. "It was a highly partisan moment that should warrant an IRS investigation into the church's political activities."

The words "hoist" and "petard" come to mind here.

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