UPDATE: I misread one word in the following news report as saying that the mailing described below was a donation “from” Clarion Fund when the text actually reads “to” Clarion Fund. Nevertheless, I’m guessing that Clarion did pay for the cost of reproducing the DVDs; while the magazine paid for the mailing itself.
Upon closer reading, I note the magazine mailed out 325,000 DVDs to all U.S. clergy. The magazine content was made available online to another 10 million individuals. Hence the reproduction and mailing costs I mention below should be adjusted significantly downwards.
I also note that the article linked below is actually a press release circulated by PRNewsWire and written by the evangelical magazine mentioned in it. So virtually all the claims presented should be considered unsubstantiated.
Just when you catch your breath and think the Clarion Fund can’t do any more to promote anti-Muslim, anti-Obama hate during the election season, they surprise you by coming up with an even more outrageous act of incitement. Marketwatch reveals that Clarion is funding a mailing of the Islamophobic film, Obsession and other anti-Muslim material by a right-wing evangelical publication, the Judeo-Christian View, to 325,000 rabbis and ministers and 10-million congregational leaders and laity. This means that virtually every church and synagogue in the U.S., including their presidents and boards of directors will be inundated by this propaganda.
Marketing experts have already estimated a previous mailing of 28 million DVDs to swing state voters cost anywhere from $15-million to $50-million. The new mailing might easily run to $5-to $10-million. Unfortunately, Clarion is flying under the radar as a non-profit which doesn’t have to reveal its donors. It also refuses to reveal its funding sources despite repeated questions from various reporters.
There have been at least two complaints to the IRS about potential violations of 501c3 regulations prohibiting partisan intervention in electoral contests. The complaints related to the massive mailing to swing state voters in a clear attempt to deter voters from choosing Barack Obama.
The most recent mailing, while continuing the anti-Obama message, also emphasizes the religious objections that Christians and Jews might have to purported Muslim beliefs (as defined by the film):
…An “interfaith video sermon” on DVD and online…discusses Obama’s support for repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, which shields states from forced recognition of same-sex marriages…
The mailing is accompanied by a letter signed by endorsing evangelical and Orthodox Jewish clergy which contends in part:
…Obama’s policy to liberalize abortion, “combined with his effort to kill a bill that would protect babies who survive abortions, tends to gut the USA’s moral standing to condemn jihadic use of Muslim children as suicide bombers; both are horrific cases of child sacrifice that support a Culture of Death and demonstrate utter contempt for the Judeo-Christian Culture of Life.”
…”Full embrace of homosexual unions by our nation and the next administration would tell violent Islamists that the infidel USA has expressly rejected once-shared Abrahamic, Mosaic and Christian teaching regarding ‘sodomy’. So too would flagrant ‘gay integration’ of our overseas military forces [a policy Obama supports]. We advocate “love the sinner, hate the sin”; militant Islamists would murder our fellow Americans for sexual error, as well as us for offering them hope and forgiveness!” The online edition graphically condemns Islamist executions of gays, young girls and women domestically and abroad.
It seems a tad ironic for evangelicals like these to decry “backward” Muslim attitudes toward gays and women when evangelical attitudes are hardly much more progressive. In truth, the signers of this letter have more in common with fundamentalist Islam on these two issues than they do with liberal western democracy. The irony has naturally been lost on those who’ve organized this mailing.
A review of the magazine’s website finds the most blatant pro-McCain and anti-Obama propaganda. Given that Clarion has fully funded the mailing on behalf of a partisan political operation, it seems beyond doubt that Clarion, in effect, is aiding and abetting violation of 501c3 statutes.
The site, as you can see from the accompanying image (click to enlarge), likens abortion to the Holocaust and the pagan practice of child sacrifice.
Another interesting element of the site is its vociferous objection to what it calls a “gag order” on evangelical churches’ partisan political activity:
First Amendment Freedoms – Religion and Speech
There are “false prophets” out there who say that pastors, priests and rabbis cannot teach, preach and pray before their congregations on what the Bible says regarding homosexuality and child sacrifice — while explaining where sitting officials and candidates stand on those issues.
Free Exercise in America’s Pulpits? Only if Exercised. Speak Truth to Power.
These “secular imams” say a church or synagogue must observe a “gag rule” against moral criticism or application of Judeo-Christian standards to our leaders. Well, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – which protects the American freedoms of Speech, Religious Exercise, Assembly and the Press — says that view is dead wrong…
Actually, this interpretation is a fraud. Certainly, churches or pastors may say whatever they wish about politics. In that sense, they do have First Amendment rights. But there is nothing saying the federal government must continue a non-profit status if the church violates IRS guidelines. So it has nothing at all to do with freedom of speech or freedom to practice one’s religion. It has everything to do with federal policy regarding following non-profit rules.
These religious charlatans even have the chutzpah to note the following:
…No church has ever lost its tax-exempt status for endorsing or opposing political candidates. This history alone should alleviate any unfounded fear.
This reminds me of tax-resisters like Wesley Snipes who assure everyone there IS no federal law compelling a citizen to pay taxes. The claim is bogus in Snipes’ case. While no church may’ve YET lost tax exempt status, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have happened and might not happen. These people are just asking for trouble and the IRS MUST tackle this issue sooner rather than later.
I call on all tolerant, progressive churches and synagogues to raise a hue and cry about this matter. No religious organization has any right to send such an insulting, racist mailing to every single religious institution in the United States. The mailing should offend anyone of faith who values tolerance and inter-faith dialogue. I also call on the Jewish press to cover this story and interview rabbis seeking their opinion about this chutzpadik infringement on their relations with the Muslim community. I also call on the IRS to expedite their investigation of Clarion and put a stop to these egregious violations of its non-profit status.
While it is clear that Obama will win the presidential election, the intent of the mailing seems to be to poison the well against him in the religious community after he assumes office.
In today’s Times, Jim Rutenberg writes a piece wondering why the white supremacist right hasn’t made a bigger clamor against Obama. I think a far more interesting and important story would be about racist campaigns like those of Clarion and Judeo-Christian View seeking to influence the election. There’s a lot more money being spread around by Clarion than by the white supremacists and almost as much hate.
Thanks to my trusty reader/researcher RM for bringing this story to me.
UPDATE: I just spoke with a technical specialist in the IRS fraud division and they unfortunately say that a non-profit cannot be penalized if its materials are used by a second party in violation of non-profit regulations. It seems a policy designed to encourage abuse. Any non profit that wishes to violate the rules and engage in partisan political activity only needs to find or create an “independent” group that will use its materials for electioneering. And the non profit gets off scot free. This is yet another example of Clarion skating free of responsibility for its misdeeds. If Ronald Reagan was the “teflon president,” then Clarion is the “teflon non-profit.”