News Intelligence Analysis
Houses of Worship Act
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.
Updated September 20, 2004 and September 29, 2004 by the Yurica Report with facts detailing why the GOP's House leadership is violating law. See the Editor's Note below.
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 Fisk Tax Bill FSC-ETI (It was to have been attached to the Jobs Creation Act H.R. 4520). If passed, the Jones bill would go far towards 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 regard 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 HR235, 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."
For those of us who believe in the separation of Church and State, 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, please immediately let every national organization you are affiliated with know about this.
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.
Please continue to check this site daily for frequent updates. When House conferees are announced, we will post them as soon as possible.
Grassroots Events Organizer
The Interfaith Alliance
1331 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 639-6370 ext. 107
[Yurica Report editor's note: We have previously written of a similar situation in 2003, where highhanded and disreputable tactics were used in the House and Senate to pass the Medicare Drug law when portions of the law were inserted, against the rules, into the bill without having been passed by both houses of Congress. The situation presently being perpetrated is even worse inasmuch as the Jones' bill was defeated by vote. We cited the following Senate Rule and the pertinent Supreme Court decisions which clearly reveal the acts of the congressional GOP leadership were illegal:
According to Senate Rule XXVIII, Section 2,
Conferees shall not insert in their report matter not committed to them by either House, nor shall they strike from the bill matter agreed to by both Houses. If new matter is inserted in the report, or if matter which was agreed to by both Houses is stricken from the bill, a point of order may be made against the report
The Supreme Court in INS v. Chadha 462 U.S. 919 (1983) commented upon an earlier case, the 1892 case of Field v. Clark, 143 U.S. 649 (1892),which the Court said resolved any question that an act does not become a law of the United States if it had not in fact been passed by Congress. (Emphasis ours.) The Court wrote:
"a bill signed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and by the President of the Senate, presented to and approved by the President of the United States, and delivered by the latter to the Secretary of State, as an act passed by Congress, does not become a law of the United States if it had not in fact been passed by Congress. . . .
". . . We recognize, on one hand, the duty of this court, from the performance of which it may not shrink, to give full effect to the provisions of the Constitution relating to the enactment of laws that are to operate wherever the authority and jurisdiction of the United States extend. On the other hand, we cannot be unmindful of the consequences that must result if this court should feel obliged, in fidelity to the Constitution, to declare that an enrolled bill, on which depend public and private interests of vast magnitude, and which has been . . . deposited in the public archives, as an act of Congress, . . . did not become a law." Id., at 669-670 (emphasis in original).
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