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Every denomination needs one of these...

The Obama speech was a campaign speech

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Too many people are fooling themselves that Obama's speech at the United Church of Christ General Synod wasn't political... but it had everything to do with his political campaign. This is from the UCC website with the headline: Obama's Synod speech will be 'first major address on faith and politics as presidential candidate':
Joshua DuBois, the Obama campaign's director of religious affairs, said the senator's Synod speech on Saturday will be his first major address on faith and politics as a presidential candidate.

The address, DuBois said, will combine personal details about Obama's religious experiences with prescriptions for how religious Americans might put their faith into action.

It will also focus on "the growing movement of people of faith" from a variety of traditions, "coming together around our connections as a people and using those connections to address our common challenges," DuBois said.

Shaun Casey, an adviser to the Obama campaign and a professor of ethics at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., said he expects the address to be "as detailed an account of how a person's faith shapes his policies as I have seen from any presidential candidate."
There is no doubt about it: the speech was clearly part of Obama's campaign.
posted by UCCtruths, Thursday, February 28, 2008


This is a no-brainer... I can't see how this could be defended.
commented by Anonymous Drew, 3:58 PM  
I think you and Drew and others are assuming that any speech by a candidate is a campaign speech.

I didn't hear anything in that speech encouraging me to vote for him. I heard much I agreed with; some I didn't; but I heard a no more of a =campaign= speech than many sermons applying personal faith to public action and calling for others to do the same.

Hey, c'mon, Drew! "not see"? That's not you. See but disagree is you, right?
commented by Blogger Don, 5:40 PM  

I have no doubt that you did not "hear" a campaign speech - but the comments from Obama's campaign clearly identified the speech as part of his Presidential camaign.

There is no doubt that Obama and the other candidates are trying to get the support of different religious communities. They do that by speaking about their faith, which is great, but it's still campaigning and legally it has to be done within the limits that the IRS permits if you are going to do it in a church or church supported religious event.

Bottom line: He was speaking about his faith as a candidate for office.
commented by Blogger UCCtruths, 6:28 PM  
We are reaping the fruits of our blurring the sacred and the political through our unsound and obselete liberation theology. Our leaders simply cannot distinguish between a partisan political speech at the very least promoting the agenda of the left wing of the Democratic party and a sermon. I suppose that's because it's the kind of sermon the UCC activists preach each Sunday from their pulpits in front of their rapidly shrinking congregations. Not a penny of OCWM to this foolishness. If OCWM money is used for this it is almost a sure guarantee that moderate churches, which actually have both Democratic and Republican members, will end their support for OCWM. Accept the IRS ruling and go forth and sin no more--A UCC Pastor
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 9:26 PM  
But, James, by your reasoning the =perceptions= of his staff determine the reality and after one becomes a candidate for office =everything= one does, one does as a candidate for office. I don't think that's the IRS's position or the rule would be: that no church body can invite any candidate for office w/o inviting all candidates for that same office and there would be no reason to restrict what was said in speeches.

IOW, your reasoning leaves out the relevence of the =content= of his speech, which admittedly crossed the line but in my opinion to such a minor degree as to be a violation of the letter of the law but not the spirit. In addition, I think the UCC made a good faith, if naively inadequate, effort at playing by the rules.

We can speculate as to what was inside his head or mine or his staff, finally my argument is that this case is ambiguous enough to not warrent pursuit. But that's me.

btw, had a nice conversation with the person from NY.
commented by Blogger Don, 7:40 AM  
Don: My conclusion is based on how Obama's campaign team promoted the speech. Intent matters as much, if not more than perception.
commented by Blogger UCCtruths, 9:23 AM  

I wonder what relative weight the IRS will apply to the perception of those relatively few who were present in the hall versus the many more who were not, but followed and heard at least parts of the speech on the news or the web based on its promotion by both the UCC NEWS and the Obama campaign as Abomey’s “first major address on faith and politics as a presidential candidate.” I can’t see how the IRS can be expected to not pursue an investigation given the clarity of the express words in that promotion.

Even if the above is ignored, by referencing his candidacy in the first couple of breaths of the speech, a campaign context was set for all that followed because it was all prefaced by that reference.

Beyond IRS regulations, it dumfounds me that some can consider Obama’s speech before a backdrop of 10,000 fellow believers while pressing his campaign theme of being a progressive person of faith who is pursuing the White House as an agent of hope and change as anything other than a campaign speech, especially while embroiled in a heated and costly presidential primary with a general election looming in the future.
commented by Blogger jeffnfairchild, 10:19 AM  
But, James, not to belabor this but isn't it the intent, knowledge and actions of =the UCC= that are the issue?
commented by Blogger Don, 11:24 AM  
Jeff, James

If I understand you both, what makes it a campaign speech is not so much the content as the context. This makes sense. I'm not sure I agree completely, but it does make sense.

But this reasoning makes every speech by a candidate a campaign speech, doesn't it? And, as I've said, if this is the case the only way a church body can avoid the endorsement of =a= candidate is to invite =all= candidates. Or to invite =no= candidates. But this is not the understanding that I see expressed in the IRS rules. Those rules seem much more nuanced and detailed and do not seem to share your assumption that all speeches by candidates are, by virtue of their context and regard, campaign speeches.

If this were true every ecclesiastical body would be in violation of the IRS rules unless they invited all candidates for a particular office to speak and many, if not most, do not. So while I think you guys make sense, I don't think this is the IRS's understanding of its own rules, but we will know in time.

But given your understanding, disinviting Obama would have been the right thing to do. I think the prudent thing to do would have been to consult our own counsel or the IRS beforehand.
commented by Blogger Don, 12:24 PM  
Don: no.

From Yesterday's Courant:

"They did all these things to avoid an appearance of an endorsement, which is what the IRS wants you to do," Lynn said. "But you just cannot control the words that are spoken by a person who says they're going to appear as a non-candidate. We try to tell this to churches. If a candidate does the wrong thing, it's not the candidate who is punished, it's the church that is punished."

To top it off, the UCC knew the content and intent of the speech - it was the same one given a week earlier in Iowa.
commented by Blogger UCCtruths, 12:46 PM  
Don: How about inviting a candidate and instructing them to keep the campaign out of the speech (at least overt references to policy proposals) and to keep the campaign team from talking about visit to the press as well as keeping the campaign team from showing up on site?

The problem here isn't Obama giving a speech, the problem is that this speech was being used as part of the campaign - and the article posted on the UCC web site mades that clear in advance of the speech. All the warning signs were there.
commented by Blogger UCCtruths, 10:22 AM  

For the IRS, both content and context matter, and Obama's speech violated both. The IRS provides guidelines to help avoid the type of investigation that the UCC has now invited by failing to follow several of those guidelines. Obama's speech was prefaced as the speech of a presidential candidate both before and during the speech itself. Obama set the context of the speech by directly referencing his candidacy in the first few breaths of his substantive remarks.

Beyond IRS rules, I believe it is difficult, if not impossible, for a candidate to give a non-campaign speech in the midst of a campaign. It is impossible to credibly claim a speech isn't a campaign speech when the speech is used by your own campaign to further your candidacy, as was done in this particular case.
commented by Blogger jeffnfairchild, 11:23 AM  
As shown by "IRS Investigation: A Test Of Church's Faith?" by Davida Foy Crabtree (http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-commentarycrabtree0302.artmar02,0,2026115.story) we must conclude that Barack Obama (1) promised the United Church of Christ that no campaign-related activity would take place during the United Church of Christ's General Synod in June 2007, and then (2) he promptly broke his word by using the 501(c)(3) tax exempt event to promote his Presidential candidacy.

Per the above article, "Our purpose in inviting Sen. Obama in the spring of 2006 — long before he was a candidate for the presidency — was to ask him to address the connection between his Christian faith and his public service, to speak to us of the challenges for people of faith in the public square today. And he did so with eloquence. As a prominent member of our church, his was a natural invitation, just as the others were.To avoid any hint of endorsement or promotion, our national officers and our denominational attorney established clear understandings with Sen. Obama's office in Washington. He readily agreed to all of them. We made it clear not only to his campaign staff but also to our own synod delegates and visitors that no advocacy or promotion of his candidacy would be permitted."

However, the speech contained considerable political content, and the IRS alleges that the Obama campaign staffed 40 tables nearby.
commented by Blogger Winged Hussar 1683, 2:32 AM  

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