LETTER: Campaign signs and churches shouldn’t mix

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It is that time of year again when lawns sprout thin-legged signs and highway berms are decorated with banners and encouragement to vote for this or that candidate. Our newspapers and television screen are covered in vitriolic partisanship. It sometimes feels like our democracy has been overrun by the demons of darkness so as to discourage the average citizen from voting.

In the cities and urban locales, big money fuels the negativity. In highways and byways of small towns and rural life, the local campaigns flood the newspapers with letters and line the roads with a rainbow of colors. Such is our democracy.

And it’s messy business, isn't it? In this age, the only way to gain the attention of those who might vote is often hyperbole and making mountains out of molehills. It might appear that a small issue is blown out of proportion merely for the publicity the ado might render.

It is no small issue, however, when in an effort for free advertising so that campaigns can be won, we endanger the well-being of another: signs on corners that might cause distraction and a collision, reputations stained by accusations and exaggerations, democracy devalued because of the discouragement of potential voters.

As a local church pastor, I deal with those who would like to use the church to speak their cause, who would like to post signs in the churchyard or on the grass beside the sidewalk. This is a touchy issue with churches. Any connection between the congregation and the candidate could give credulity to a claim of partisanship.

The Internal Revenue Service has repeatedly brought suit against religious communities and their leaders when there is the “appearance” of partisanship by the church or pastor. The IRS is not concerned with the Establishment Clause of the Constitution; they merely hold hostage the church’s tax exempt status. While very few suits have held up in court, the cost of the church’s legal fees to defend themselves is tremendous and has the potential to put the church out of business.

Do your local faith community a favor: keep your signs in your own yard. Don’t park any stationary advertising on the street in front of the church building. And please don’t ask for use of the building for a political meeting. While there may be no harm intended, the stress to a congregation’s well-being is more than you might imagine.

And please, after the election, please go back and pick up all those signs you put out there on the highway.

Tell City

(More letters appear in today's print edition.)