In connection with the Catholic Church speaking out against the new health care law's requirement that health plans provide contraception coverage, there has been some outcry on the internet and in social media circles about churches staying out of the political arena. It is not a new issue, but it has gained some recent steam.
In reality, churches are not prohibited from speaking out on anything of a political bent. The Internal Revenue Code prohibits them from getting involved in a particular candidates campaign, donating to a campaign, or openly advocating a particular candidate for political office. However, many issues overlap. Things the church considers to be of spiritual concern may also be of political concern. The church is within its rights to preach, teach or speak out in regard to its opinion on such subjects. In fact, tax-exempt organizations are even permitted to engage in limited lobbying activity, so long as that activity does not rise to what the IRS defines as a "substantial" level.
More than anything, I would like to see consistency on both sides. For example, were those who currently believe the church should be silent on the "political" issue of contraception equally incensed when the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote a letter in 2010 to the United States House of Representatives urging the passing of President Obama's proposed health care reform law (http://old.usccb.org/healthcare/HC-Letter-to-Congress-012610.pdf)? Did they speak out against the United Church of Christ passing a resolution in 2005 aimed at "affirming marriage equality, affirming the civil rights of gay - of same-gender - couples to have their relationships recognized as marriages by the state, and encouraging our local churches to celebrate those marriages" (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/05/national/05church.html?_r=1)? Did they object when the United Methodist Church urged the passing of health care legislation in the House of Representatives and opposed an amendment that would prohibit including abortion services (http://www.umc-gbcs.org/c.frLJK2PKLqF/b.3634159/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?aid=13356)?
We cannot "have our cake and eat it too." If churches must remain completely out of the political arena, then all churches must do so. We cannot pick and choose when we decide to raise the objection based upon whether we happen to agree with the stance the church is taking in any particular instance.
This is more an observation about human nature than anything else. That which we condemn when it stands in opposition to our views we are all too often willing to give a blind eye when it works in our favor. This principle applies far beyond this particular illustration and it is my prayer that we can all strive to seek consistency in our daily lives.