Skip to comments.Civil war looms for Republicans
Posted on 06/28/2004 9:24:17 AM PDT by SlickWillard
Before Congress left town Friday for its Fourth of July recess, Rep. Bill Thomas of California pulled off one of his patented legislative assassinations. Washington's most cunning parliamentarian, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Thomas eradicated the Freedom of Speech in Churches Act without openly opposing it. In the process, he fired an early shot in a destructive civil war looming for Republicans.
The bill would stop the Internal Revenue Service from using existing statutes to muzzle clergymen who talk politics in their churches. That stoppage is pressed by Christian conservatives, who say they have been discriminated against by federal enforcers. While the free speech initiative is supported by Republican leaders, Thomas made short work of it. He transformed the proposal into a hybrid that neither friend nor foe could support.
Thomas has brought into the open internecine warfare posing grave dangers for the Republican Party. A 13-term congressman who is the party boss of Bakersfield, Calif., he represents old-line Republicans who resent Christian conservatives entering their party in 1980 (and giving the GOP parity with Democrats). Efforts to expel these intruders will reach fever pitch next year if George W. Bush is defeated for re-election.
This specific fight's origins date back to 1954 when Senate Democratic leader Lyndon B. Johnson, unduly concerned about the threat to his re-election from right-wing political groups, passed a bill barring political activity by tax-exempt organizations. In time, this was broadened to keep churches out of politics.
That aspiration sounds comical to me after years of following Democratic candidates into inner-city churches on Sunday mornings to hear them endorsed by black clergymen. This activity never incurs the wrath of Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Instead, Lynn pesters the IRS about conservatives in church as he did in a May 27 letter to the IRS. It claimed Bishop Michael J. Sheridan's pastoral letter of May 1 ''jeopardized the tax-exempt status'' of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs, Colo., by praising politicians opposed to abortion.
Such censorship alarmed Walter Jones, a Republican businessman and devout Catholic from Farmville, N.C., when he was elected to Congress in 1994. Correcting unintended consequences of LBJ's 1954 legislation became Jones' top priority. He introduced his bill in 2001.
Thomas as chairman blocked an easy path to the floor for Jones' bill. It reached the floor Oct. 1, 2002, under the procedure requiring two-thirds approval. Despite support for it from their party's leadership, 46 Republicans -- Thomas included -- voted no and prevented even a simple majority. They represent a bloc of Republicans, from the corporate boardroom to the country club, who despise the religious right.
This year, the indefatigable Jones managed to get his religious free speech proposal imbedded in tax legislation that has to be passed to stop trade retaliation by the European Union. Everybody was on board: Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Majority Whip Roy Blunt, Republican National Chairman Ed Gillespie -- everybody, that is, except Thomas.
Thomas practiced his sorcery. The straightforward Jones language was transmuted into a maze of words that lawyers for conservative organizations say would keep the muzzle on preachers. Jones, with the backing of Hastert, added 28 words to the Thomas language to restore his original meaning. Thomas pulled the 28 words out of the final version. That killed the whole issue. Thomas did not seem unhappy about it, but the speaker was furious.
Thomas is a secularist who in the past jousted with senior Republican Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, a prominent Catholic layman, over federal aid to Catholic hospitals. A former college professor, Thomas is entitled to his own views, but today's GOP relies on support not from secular Americans but from churchgoers. Jones, not intimidated by Thomas, told me: ''Discretionary enforcement, primarily against conservative churches, of an unenforceable law is wrong and should not stand.'' That is a battle cry for the coming Republican civil war.
frickin Novak. Who asked him?
Gosh, a negative article about the GOP by Bob Novak. Who'd a thunk it?!?
This just gets uglier and uglier.
I've learned to just skip any editorials by Novak for the sake of my blood pressure. He's gone over to the dark side, been hanging around Maxie Shields too long.
Actually, this one doesn't seem to be negative to the GOP to me.
If just the idea that Republicans are starting to get in the mood to fight back (finally), well, I no longer see that as a negative.
No...he's on OUR side with this one, time to throw Bill Thomas out on his ass.
I fail to see how speaking out about politics turns a church into a for-profit organization. Same goes for other non-profits. It's absurd that they are muzzled.
I read the first few paras talking about dissension. That, combined with Novak's name and his GOP-bashing history, was enough for me. :-)
Who has the authority to do this? Can Hastert do it? Can Thomas's fellow committee members do it? Can the entire House GOP delegation [caucus] do it?
Or does Thomas hold the position purely on the basis of seniority and seniority alone?
I meant to say it is NOT negative about the GOP!!!!! rather than "?". LOL! Punctuation makes a difference.
Bill Thomas has become Kennedy of the West.
Nah,they'll will keep the RINO in office long enough to get Amnesty for the Criminal invaders...Priorities don't cha know!
Its odd Bill Thomas is so anti-Christian conservative. The district he represents, Bakersfield, is the Bible belt of California. That what happens when someone gets so entrenched in power with no real possibility of being voted out of office. Reminds me of Orin Hatch from Utah.
That would require a backbone, preferably with a tongue..
Republican tongues can't say, socialist, communist, left wing re-education camp(colleges), or even that the civil war is well advanced with democrats and the republicans are losing due to moles(neocons) aiding the insurrection making america a democracy and not so slowly..
Is the war in the mid-east a diversion from the civil war here.?. Hopefully not on purpose, but the result is the same. Much too complicated for liberals maybe even too complicated for conservatives..
They easily abandon God for whatever local false gods have set themselves as captors over them because they are walking in deception; blinded followers of blind leaders.
If they knew and walked in obedience to their God they would long ago have moved to assert their God given and their Constitutional rights.
Novak hasn't had a valid insight about Republican Party politics since about 1991.
This article just confirms the above conclusion.
Why can't we muzzle the "reverend" jackson?
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