The Seattle P-I reports today that initiative whore Tim Eyman is counting on evangelical churches to gather the 112,440 signatures he needs to put his anti-gay rights referendum on the ballot.
Though early reports indicated a lackluster response to the measure, Eyman is banking on an eleventh-hour surge from as many as 5,400 churches he hopes will participate in “Referendum Sunday.”
“That means that this weekend nearly 500,000 voters are going to hear about and talk about our effort to get a public vote on House Bill 2661,” Eyman wrote in an e-mail sent to the media and supporters. “They’ll be asked to not only sign the petition, but to take petitions home and fill them up and return them next Sunday.”
Hmm. According to the Washington State Department of Revenue, our state’s churches receive about $44 million in property tax exemptions annually — that’s tax burden that is shifted to ordinary citizens like you and me. But one of the prerequisites for maintaining this not-for-profit status is that these churches must refrain from actively engaging in political campaigns.
If tomorrow, on “Referendum Sunday,” these churches distribute petitions and/or canvass for signatures, or parishioners are instructed to do so, I would say that this would constitute a very real violation of the prohibition on electioneering, and would thus provide clear grounds for suing to have their tax exempt status revoked. Sound heavy handed? Well, no more heavy handed than say, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation’s penchant for filing Public Disclosure Commission complaints against school teachers who distribute political literature on school property.
So I strongly urge all my readers to show a little faith, and go to church tomorrow (focus on those evangelical mega-churches if you can,) and bring along a video camera or other recording device, just in case. And God forbid you find any prohibited political campaigning on church property, drop me an email.
If our state’s churches want to play politics, then they better be prepared to play political hardball.