If the Religious Right gets its way, churches will be able to legally endorse candidates and lend support to campaigns just in time for November’s elections.

In a move designed to crush all opposition, House Majority Leader Tom Delay and House Speaker Dennis Hastert have joined with Rep. Walter Jones to attach the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act (Jones bill/HR 235) to the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 (H.R. 4520).  If passed, the Jones bill would go far toward eroding the wall of separation between the institutions of religion and government by reversing IRS tax laws that prohibit houses of worship from engaging in partisan politicking. 

The American Jobs Creation Act already passed the House and Senate and is in conference committee. By inserting the Jones legislation into this bill during conference committee, Delay and Jones ensure that the House and Senate will never get a chance to vote on the Jones bill, which the House has defeated in various forms twice before.

Shortly before the Congress moved into its August Recess, Rep. Jones, according to The Hill newspaper, delivered a letter to the Speaker signed by 131 lawmakers stating that the House “lost an ideal opportunity” to change IRS policy in regards to the ability of houses of worship to endorse partisan candidates when the House passed the tax reform bill on June 17. In that bill, The Interfaith Alliance along with nearly two dozen religious denominations was successful in leading a bipartisan effort to defeat the so-called “Safe Harbors Act,” a variation of the Jones bill that would have allowed houses of worship to endorse political candidates up to three times without losing their tax-exempt status.  Capitol Hill sources say that the letter delivered by Jones to Speaker Hastert is a clear pressure tactic reminding the Speaker that many Republican votes for the larger tax reform bill are in jeopardy if the Jones legislation is not included in the bill.

On September 9, action alerts sprang up on Religious-Right websites instructing their members to call Hastert and Delay stating, “UPDATE: WE NEED YOU TO MAKE CALLS TODAY!  The hope of returning free speech to our pastors is closer than ever. There is a solid possibility of inserting H.R. 235, the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act, into the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 that is currently in conference committee on Capitol Hill.”

TIA members and supportors are urged to contact House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas and thank him for his past work in preventing this dangerous and landscape-altering legislation from becoming reality. Please ask Chairman Thomas to prevent the hijacking of the Jobs Creation Act by Walter Jones and his Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act. His office can be reached by calling 202-225-3625. 

Telephone calls are the only communication that will make an impact at this point. With the strong network of right-wing organizations making calls, we need a strong phone presence from our 150,000 members across the nation.

In addition, below are the Senators who have been designated as “conferees” by their party. If they represent you, please call them and tell them to oppose the insertion of H.R. 235 in the Jobs Creation Act. These calls are essential.

Senator Grassley of Iowa; Senator Hatch of Utah; Senator Nickles of Oklahoma; Senator Lott of Mississippi; Senator Snowe of Maine; Senator Kyl of Arizona; Senator Thomas of Wyoming; Senator Santorum of Pennsylvania; Senator Smith of Oregon; Senator Bunning of Kentucky; Senator McConnell of Kentucky; Senator Gregg of New Hampshire; Senator Baucus of Montana; Senator Rockefeller of West Virginia; Minority Leader Daschle of South Dakota; Senator Breaux of Louisiana; Senator Conrad of North Dakota; Senator Graham of Florida; Senator Jeffords of Vermont; Senator Bingaman of New Mexico; Senator Lincoln of Arkansas; Senator Kennedy of Massachusetts; and Senator Harkin of Iowa.