City Council Becomes a Proving Ground for Secular Government

Apparently some people in Albuquerque don’t know or care about the bedrock constitutional principle of keeping the church and the government separate. They don’t know or care that the United States was created as a secular government and that avoiding religious disputes in the public sphere has prevented bloodshed and violence. 

Backers of Tammy Fiebelkorn’s GOP rival for Albuquerque City Council District 7 have tolerated a political endorsement from a megachurch pulpit in violation of the principle that no religious affiliation is required of voters. Further, Fiebelkorn’s GOP opponent responded by mentioning that she is glad to “share her faith” with others, allowing her religious views to identify her constituency. 

Democracy is in jeopardy without the First Amendment’s protection against government interference with religion and its prohibition on establishment of an official government religion. Making a partisan endorsement in a city council race disqualifies a political congregation from tax breaks intended to preserve the separation of church and state. And a candidate who wears her religious affiliation on her sleeve does not deserve to serve a community that may not share her belief.

Churches that endorse a candidate are not exercising their right to worship as they please. Instead, they’re attempting to establish a state religion. The megachurch pastor and congregation can defend their right to worship as they please without the government’s interference. However, they become hypocritical if they do so while putting their religious views at the core of a political debate. Inserting the religious endorsement into an election is warring against the right to choose, against respect for persons expressing gender identity in diverse ways, and against the COVID responses of a Democratic governor.

Churches avoid paying taxes precisely because the constitution requires government to keep its hands off religion. Keeping religious beliefs out of politics preserves civility and allows people from all walks of life a role in shaping society. A congregation that doesn’t understand or care that the United States is a secular government should not receive a tax break as a religious entity. The pastor and congregation working against the election of Democrat Tammy Fiebelkorn are lobbying, and should face requirements other lobbyists face – including disclosure of financial supporters. 

The last day for early voting for City Council Districts 7 and 9 is Saturday, December 4 and in-person polling is set for December 7. All who live in Districts 7 and 9 can help preserve a secular government by voting for the two Democratic candidates. Those who don’t live in the districts and can’t vote can still help through campaign volunteering and/or financial support.