UCC a campaign stop?
There have been some conservative sites that have bashed the United Church of Christ for having Barack Obama speak at their General Synod. I don't agree with them but the issue did raise questions for me.
Obama used his time at the synod as if it was a campaign stop. His speech was marked with campaign promises, references to his presidential run, and so on. He didn't make a distinction between his role as a UCC member and his role as someone seeking elected office.
UCC does not seem at fault here. His speech was supposed to be on piety and American politics. The convention officials worked to ensure no Obama literature or placards would make it to the floor. In other words, he was there as a prominent UCC member, not as a candidate.
Some have faulted the church because there were Obama tables outside of the convention center. But that is outside of their purview or power. At the Episcopal convention in 03, we had Phelps folks outside the center and the church could do nothing about it.
I do fault Obama for not crafting a speech that avoided the appearance of a stump speech and for having folks organizing outside of the convention center. For not respecting the line between speaking on issues and faith and just plain old soliciting voters.
I doubt Obama will get in trouble for such a move. But it's because the religious right has been so successful in removing the barriers between church and state. The sort of regular intermingling of church and candidates is taken for granted now.
While liberal churches should aggressively seek ways to present our message, it should be done in a way which respects the principle of separation of church and state. That is, we shouldn't copy the tactics of the religious right but choose a more excellent way.
Disclaimer I haven't chosen a candidate, but barring any unforeseen changes in the candidates and the political scene, I plan to support John Edwards. But I hope my comments on the first amendment have standing on their own.