Rick Hertzberg gives the LDS Church a pop in the current New Yorker, but the big news is that the state of California’s Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating the church for allegedly neglecting to report “a battery of nonmonetary contributions — including phone banks, a Web site and commercials” in its effort to drum up support for Proposition 8. A California law whose constitutionality the state Supreme Court will be reviewing requires full disclosure of any money spent and services rendered to influence the outcome of an election campaign. Jay Sekulow, legal eagle for the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, doesn’t like the law one bit. As CBN reports:
“These weren’t campaigns like a political campaign, like someone running for office,” Sekulow said. “This was on a moral issue and a cultural issue, and I think the church should be free to engage in these issues and not have to engage in oversight by the government when it comes to this.”
“Now the law in California may be different and maybe needs to be challenged in that regard. I think it does need to be challenged,” he explained. “But this idea that the government can oversee how the church spends its money is in my view absolutely unconstitutional.”
I’m no lawyer, but it seems to me that a requirement for non-profit organizations to disclose material involvement in an election involves no more oversight–and probably less–than the (constitutionally upheld) requirement that non-profits not involve themselves in partisan political campaigns if they expect to keep their tax exemptions. Religious institutions have some kind of free exercise right not to disclose their support for a ballot initiative? I don’t see it.
As the investigation goes forward–and the LDS Church says it will cooperate–the full extent of the church’s involvement in the pro-Prop. 8 campaign will presumably be laid out for all to see. Not, I suspect, a happy prospect in Salt Lake.
Update: But the Catholic bishops have their back. I guess.